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Philadelphia Med Mal & Birth Injury Lawyer / Blog / Birth Injury / Can Birth Injury Cause Autism? Here’s How the Two Are Linked

Can Birth Injury Cause Autism? Here’s How the Two Are Linked


Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may struggle growing up in a world that was fundamentally not built for them. Though scientists are still not sure how ASD is caused (they have ruled out vaccines as a risk factor), studies have uncovered links between the condition and other health matters.

For instance, the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network found that children with cerebral palsy may be up to 7 times more likely to have co-occurring ASD. This venture, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), identified over 400 children with cerebral palsy across 4 states. They found 6.9% of them also had ASD, as compared to 1% of the general population. Though some findings, like the fact that ASD is more commonly linked with non-spastic cerebral palsy, bring more questions than answers, there’s no doubt this relationship is worth investigating further.

What Types of Birth Trauma Are Linked to Autism?

Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in American children, but it’s not the only form of birth injury. A study performed by Kaiser Permanente examined the records from nearly 600,000 births and found complications during childbirth could increase the risk of developing ASD by 10%. When complications began before labor, the comparative risk was even higher.

After adjusting for demographic factors, the researchers found that birth asphyxia (HIE) and preeclampsia specifically seemed to increase a child’s risk of developing ASD. There were also links, though at lower rates, to perinatal complications including placental abruption, breech or transverse presentation, fetal dystocia, and umbilical cord prolapse. A previous Kaiser study also pointed to maternal diabetes as a risk factor for ASD. All these complications can cause serious injury to your infant if not treated quickly and effectively.

Autism and the Brain

Many serious birth injuries—including cerebral palsy—are mainly caused by brain damage. Though it would be inaccurate to characterize ASD as a symptom or type of brain injury, scientists have observed physical differences in brain structure and function among ASD patients. One of the factors—irregularities in white matter—is mirrored by some brain injury patients. Because the behaviors exhibited by children with this type of brain injury are similar to those with ASD, scientists are further examining how white matter development may be implicated in ASD.

When considering this information in the context of other studies, further connections can be made. White matter injury among infants is typically caused by the disruption of oxygen to the fetus during gestation or delivery. This type of injury is likely to occur in cases of birth asphyxia (also known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy) and preeclampsia, the two complications most linked to a future ASD diagnosis. This suggests damage to certain parts of the brain may be a factor in the development of autism.

Getting Help for Your Child with Autism

If you believe your child is developing ASD after suffering a traumatic birth, you should speak to a doctor. When early detection of autism is followed by intervention, a child’s outcomes can be improved. It’s also important to receive an official diagnosis if you think you may have a birth injury case. Taking steps to learn the truth now can arm you with the tools to help your child as they grow.

We’re Here for the Victims of Birth Injury

As a parent, it’s heartbreaking to see your child struggle. We understand you want to be able to give them the best life possible. However, some families have trouble accessing the help they need to provide for a disabled child. Our birth injury attorney can help you understand your right to recompense if your child was harmed due to complications during pregnancy or birth. You could be eligible to file for compensation that will cover their treatment and also account for the injury’s effects on you and the rest of your family. Bringing a case against a negligent care team can help you find justice for your child and give them a brighter future.

The Villari Firm, PLLC has won over $125 million for our clients due to our dedication to their cases. We are ready to aggressively fight for you and your family just as you fight to give your child the best possible care after a serious, preventable injury. With a proven attorney at the helm and a team of medical experts ready to consult and provide testimony on technical matters, you can be confident your case will receive the attention it deserves.

Call The Villari Firm, PLLC at 267-388-9429 or contact us online for your free consultation. Our team has over 2 decades of experience fighting tough birth injury cases.

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