Autism Risk Tied To Mom's Age

Women who give birth at 40 or older are twice as likely to have a child with a spectrum disorder.

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Autism is back in the news. This week, a new study found that women who give birth after age 40 face a higher risk of having an autistic child, regardless of the father's age, Reuters reports.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis, found that a woman who gave birth after age 40 was 50 percent more likely to have an autistic child compared with a woman who gave birth between the ages 25 and 29. These findings, published in the journal Autism Research, add to previous studies indicating a link between advanced maternal age and a child's autism risk.

For every five additional years of maternal age, the likelihood of giving birth to an autistic child increased by 18 percent. While previous studies reported by Crib Notes have shown that a father's advanced age can also boost the autism risk, this study found that the father's age made no difference when the mom-to-be is 30 and older. It is only when men 40 and older father children with women 30 and younger that the father's age increases the autism risk.

Record numbers of women 40 and older are having babies. Better medical care, including increasingly successful infertility treatments, has improved the chances for women of "advanced maternal age" to conceive and have a healthy baby!

Regardless of mom's age, autism spectrum disorders are a hot-button topic for most parents. As Crib Notes reported last week, a prominent journal fully retracted the original 1998 autism study that sparked the current anti-immunization wave that has many parents refusing to vaccinate their children. Despite repeated statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that vaccines have no link to autism, parents are still very wary.

Despite all these reassurances, autism spectrum disorder cases are still on the rise—it now affects 1 in 100 children. Researchers point to "triggers" in the prenatal environment that may help experts decode the largely genetic disorder.

If you're worried, check out our list of autism warning signs. And remember to communicate with your pediatrician about your concerns! After all, you don't want your doc to drop you over immunizations.