Study links autism with first trimester ultrasounds

Researchers from the University of Washington and the Seattle Children's Research Institute have discovered a link between the severity of autism and ultrasounds performed in the first trimester.

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The study appears in the journal Autism Research and reads, in part, "We found that male children with ASD, copy number variations (CNVs) and exposure to first trimester ultrasound had significantly decreased non-verbal IQ and increased repetitive behaviors relative to male children with ASD, with CNVs, and no ultrasound."

No such connection was found with ultrasounds performed in the second and third trimesters.

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Risk factors for complications during pregnancy
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Risk factors for complications during pregnancy

Advanced maternal age

Pregnancy risks are higher for mothers age 35 and older.

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Lifestyle choices

Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs can put a pregnancy at risk.

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Medical history

 A prior C-section, low birth weight baby or preterm birth — birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy — might increase the risk in subsequent pregnancies. Other risk factors include a family history of genetic conditions, a history of pregnancy loss or the death of a baby shortly after birth.

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Underlying conditions

Chronic conditions — such as diabetes, high blood pressure and epilepsy — increase pregnancy risks. A blood condition, such as anemia, an infection or an underlying mental health condition also can increase pregnancy risks.

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Pregnancy complications

Various complications that develop during pregnancy pose risks, such as problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta. Other concerns might include too much amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios) or low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios), restricted fetal growth, or Rh (rhesus) sensitization — a potentially serious condition that can occur when your blood group is Rh negative and your baby's blood group is Rh positive.

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Multiple pregnancy

Pregnancy risks are higher for women carrying twins or higher order multiples.

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In arriving at their conclusion, researchers examined data on over 2,600 families that was gathered by the Simons Simplex Collection autism genetic repository.

Sarah Webb, the study's lead author and an expert in behavioral sciences and psychiatry, stressed that the results do not indicate that ultrasounds are a cause of autism.

RELATED: Autism spectrum disorder prevalence in the United States

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