Is Autism Risk In Children Influenced By Parental Age?

autism risk parental age

One of the biggest blessings in this world is giving birth to a healthy baby. But not every parent is fortunate enough to live this dream. That is because many children are born with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in 36 children in the United States are diagnosed with ASD. While characteristics of autism can be detected in early childhood, the condition is usually diagnosed later in life.

Now, the question is, what contributes to autism in children? Unfortunately, there is no one cause of autism. It is believed to develop from a combination of genetic as well as environmental factors.

Researchers have now brought to light that advancing parental age is among the leading risk factors of autism. Is it true when it comes to autistic children including kids with Asperger’s? Let’s find out in this guide.

Research Reveals A Link Between Parental Age And Autism

Multiple studies published in the past decade have established a link between parental age and autism spectrum disorder. Children born to older men and women are at higher risk of developing autism than those born to young couples.

Early studies have found that autism prevalence was as much as 66% higher in babies born to fathers above 50 years of age. On the other hand, ASD prevalence was 28% higher in babies born to fathers in their mid to late 40s.

Likewise, mothers who conceive a baby in their 40s are at 15% risk of delivering babies with autism than those who become mothers in their 20s. Shockingly, autism rates are about 18% higher among babies born to teenage mothers.

Shedding Light On ASD And Advancing Parental Age: Abraham Reichenberg’s Study

While Abraham Reichenberg’s early study reveals the risk of autism is 5.75 times higher among children born to men above 40 years, it found no link between offspring’s autism and maternal age. Many studies confirmed his findings, but others disputed it. This further stimulated research into whether maternal age is insignificant in ASD diagnosis in children.

However, other studies found a strong connection between autism and higher maternal age. As per them, having a father of young age doesn’t reduce the risk of ASD in children when the mother’s age is 35+.

How Conception And Pregnancy Affect Autism Risk

Despite the multitude of studies conducted, there is no clear explanation if there is a connection between advancing parental age and autism. There are, however, a number of risk factors that increase the risk of autism in children. These include:

#1 Genetic Mutation

While it has yet to be known what causes ASD, many believe genetics play an important role. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asserts that autism runs in the family. A great deal of research suggests that genes are among the main contributors to autism.

Furthermore, the mutation of certain genes may raise a child’s risk of being autistic. However, this link is complex. On the one hand, it is believed that the male sperm-producing cells exposed to potential toxins may acquire more mutations. On the other hand, the National Institute of Health explains that not every autistic person has changes in every gene.

Besides genetics, certain biological factors increase a child’s risk of autism. These are as follows:

• Issues in the immune system of the body

• Issues with metabolism

• Issues with brain connections

• Growth or overgrowth in certain parts of the brain

#2 Infections During Pregnancy

Prenatal exposure to infections is believed to increase a child’s risk of autism, reveals numerous studies. A 2019 study published by JAMA Psychiatry examined more than 1,000,000 Swedish children and discovered that a child’s chances of autism were 79% higher if the child bearer suffered a severe infection.

Exposure to infections like meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis, urinary tract, and flu in the womb raises a child’s risk of autism. What is more shocking is that the majority of medications used to treat such infections are unsafe for consumption. If consumed by pregnant women, such medications are likely to cause birth defects or increase autism risk.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) deserves special mention in this regard because 40% to 65% of pregnant women use it. While it has been marketed as safe for pregnancy, recent studies reveal that exposure to Tylenol in the womb may result in autistic children.

The Tylenol autism lawsuit asserts that children developed ASD following prenatal exposure to Tylenol. The defendants, TorHoerman Law reveals, are Walmart, Target Corp, Rite Aid Corp, CVS Pharmacy Inc., Walgreens Boot Alliance Inc., and Safeway Inc.

As far as Tylenol autism lawsuit settlement amounts are concerned, the average value is likely to range from $5 to $10 million.

The Key Takeaway

There isn’t much parents can do to reduce autism risk in their offspring. While environmental factors like limiting medications during pregnancy are in your control, parents are powerless in regard to genetic factors. To minimize giving birth to autistic children, conceiving in the late 20s or early 30s will be your best bet.

However, if autism runs in your or your spouse’s family, this still won’t reduce your risk of giving birth to an autistic child. If you are trying to conceive, it is best to consult a gynecologist. Tips shared by them will come in handy to prevent autism risk during pregnancy. Don’t take anything in this article as specific medical or legal advice, so make sure to discuss your concerns with medical and legal professionals.