Preconception Risk Factors for Autism Spectrum Disorder - A Pilot Study

Brain Sci. 2020 May 14;10(5):293. doi: 10.3390/brainsci10050293.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder of multifactorial etiology. Preconception risk factors are still poorly understood. A survey on preconception risk factors for ASD was conducted among parents of 121 ASD patients aged 3-12 years and parents of 100 healthy children aged 3-12 years. The exclusion criteria were as follows: the presence of associated problems such as intellectual disability, epilepsy or other genetic and neurological diseases. Thirteen parameters were considered, a few among which were conception problems, conception with assisted reproductive techniques, the use and duration of oral contraception, the number of previous pregnancies and miscarriages, time since the previous pregnancy (in months), the history of mental illness in the family (including ASD), other chronic diseases in the mother or father and maternal and paternal treatment in specialist outpatient clinics. Three factors statistically significantly increased the risk of developing ASD: mental illness in the mother/mother's family (35.54% vs. 16.0%, p = 0.0002), maternal thyroid disease (16.67% vs. 5.0%, p = 0.009) and maternal oral contraception (46.28% vs. 29.0%, p = 0.01). Children of mothers with thyroid disorders or with mental illness in relatives should be closely monitored for ASD. Further studies are warranted to assess a potential effect of oral contraception on the development of offspring.

Keywords: autism; preconception risk factor.