Clinical research: Birth complications increase autism risk

In premature infants, bleeding inside the skull and respiratory distress requiring a certain type of ventilator may each contribute to an increased risk of autism, suggests a large study published in the January issue of The Journal of Pediatrics1.

Several medical factors showed no association with autism, the study found. These include a gastrointestinal disease common in premature infants, called necrotizing enterocolitis, the presence of bacteria in the blood and the need for resuscitation, using either chest compressions or epinephrine.

In contrast, mild bleeding in the skull nearly doubled the risk of autism in premature infants, and severe bleeding increased the risk more than threefold. The use of a mechanical ventilator, which assists or replaces natural breathing, is not linked to an increased risk of autism. However, high-frequency ventilation — used for severe respiratory distress and when conventional ventilation does not work — increased risk about twofold.Read more here.