Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Age is a factor in autism

Age is a factor in autism
December 15, 9:41 PMDouglas County Special Needs Kids Examiner

Gina St. Aubin

(Photo By: Ghutchis / Flickr)We've know for some time that the parent's age at conception and birth plays a large role in the possibility of birth defects for a child. For a woman, researchers indicate that as she reaches her late 30's and 40's the risk of infertility and miscarriage significantly increase. In the United States alone, approximately 1 in 12 first-time births are to women over 35; even while more studies have shown that infertility rates increase by 3% for each year beyond 35.

Now, a recent study from American Journal of Epidemiology indicates that age has more of a factor for birth defects than previously thought. In a study of 7.5 million births in California between 1989 and 2002, researchers identified 23,311 children who received state-sponsored services for autism. Further, through this research, the state's health department found that a child's risk of developing autism increased along with the age of the parents. For each 10-year increase in a mother's age between the ages of 20 and 40, the risk of her child developing autism climbed by 38 percent. Similarly, each 10-year increase in a father's age between the ages of 20 and 60 was associated with a 22-percent increase in autism risk.

Although past studies have indicated that the older age of parents may increase a child's risk of autism, or that it has no impact at all, these latest findings suggest (not prove) that an older age in parents may be an additional risk factor. With studies showing that the number of autism diagnosis' has skyrocketed over the past two decades, along with this new information, it may possible that the concomitant trend toward delaying childbirth could have contributed to that rise." But even if older parental age is a factor, she said, it would be a "relatively minor one."

So what do couples contemplating starting or continuing a family do with this information? What do women and men do as individuals mapping out their life's plan where beginning a family earlier in life is not possible or desired? At this point, with autism and it's research essentially still very young, is it not possible to take this information along with you as you have the previous information? Take it with you, in consideration, but not an end-all as the previous knowledge that increased age can increase the overall risk for birth defects? Could it not be added to the number of issues "listed" as those your possible future child is at risk for?

Or would couples begin their families sooner, beyond the consideration of education, finances and stability, all in the hopes of dodging the chance that their child, too, will be effected by autism?



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