A woman’s chance of having a child with autism increases as she ages. That’s according to a new study released today. The study, out of the University of California, Davis, showed that the risk increases with the father’s age. However, the risk is still small no matter what a woman’s age, Dr. Bruce Hensel reported.
The study looked at 5.6 million babies born in California and found that if the mother was older than 40 the risk of autism was about 50 percent more likely than for a mother in her twenties.
If the father was over 40 the risk was 36 percent higher than in his twenties.
Unlike Downs Syndrome, where the risk increases after 40 because of a chromosomal problem, researchers have not discovered any change in chromosomes of autistic children.
“Although the new study does not show a cause, it does give us ammunition to fight the disorder,” Dr. Hensel said.
In addition, women over 40 should be aware of the risk; thus looking for early signs of the disorder in their children. Among them:
Failure to speak by 12-18 months of age
Loss of speech after developing it
Lack of eye contact
And poor social interaction
“This does not mean you should panic if you are pregnant over 40: despite this finding; less than one half or one percent of all women over 40 develop autism,” Dr. Hensel said.