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Autism associated with complications during pregnancy and birth, study finds

A new study based on the health records of half a million Southern California children has found an association between autism and complications during pregnancy and birth.  

The study, published in the American Journal of Perinatology, analyzed the records from children born in Kaiser Permanente hospitals between 1991 and 2009. Around 6,000 children were later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The researchers found nearly 40 percent of those children experienced complications shortly before or during birth.

Among the complications the researchers found associated with autism were birth asphyxia, in which a child is deprived of oxygen during birth, and preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy condition characterized by high blood pressure.

According to the study's lead author, Dr. Darios Getahun of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation, understanding risk factors associated with autism could help identify children with autism at an earlier age.

"Early intervention with behavioral and developmental therapy with very young children with autism can result in better long term cognitive and behavioral function," Getahun said.

About 1 in 68 children in the U.S have been diagnosed with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention