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Can birth trauma cause autism?

View profile for Trevor Ward
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Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects individuals worldwide. While the exact causes of autism remain unknown, researchers have been focusing on perinatal and neonatal factors as potential risk factors for the development of autism. In this article, we investigate the existing research to understand the relationship between birth trauma and autism. We aim to provide a clear understanding of the current scientific evidence surrounding this topic. 


What is autism? 

Before exploring the potential link between birth trauma and autism, it is important to understand what autism is. Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a lifelong condition characterised by challenges in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviours. Individuals with autism may also have unique strengths and differences in sensory processing. 


What are the perinatal and neonatal factors that impact autism? 

Researchers have long been interested in understanding the cause of autism, and perinatal and neonatal factors have emerged as possible contributors. Perinatal refers to the period immediately before and after birth, while neonatal pertains to the first 28 days of life. By investigating these factors, researchers hope to shed light on the potential causes of autism. 

Studies have revealed several perinatal and neonatal factors that can be associated with an increased risk of autism. Some of the main factors include:  

  • Abnormal presentation 

  • Complications with the umbilical-cord 

  • Foetal distress 

  • Birth injuries or trauma 

  • Multiple birth (birth of more than one baby such as twins or triplets) 

  • Maternal haemorrhages 

On the other hand, certain factors were not found to be associated with autism risk. Such as: 


Do these findings mean birth trauma can cause autism? 

While studies have identified an association between perinatal and neonatal factors and an increased risk of a child developing autism, it is important to note that there is a lack of evidence to suggest there is a single factor that causes autism. Alternatively, a combination of factors and the environmental exposures during the perinatal and neonatal period contribute to the risk of developing autism. 



In conclusion, research has identified that while certain factors indicate an association between birth trauma and autism, the cause of autism is complex. Therefore, it is likely that there is a combination of genetic and environmental factors which contribute to the development of autism. 

Research continues to be carried out to further understand the relationship between birth trauma and autism. This will further improve the understanding of potential risk factors.We can work towards early detection, intervention, and support for individuals with autism, in order to improve their quality of life.