USC Fertility


Older Moms and Autistic Kids

Every week it seems that a new study pertaining to autism is being published. It’s not surprising considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that one in 110 children had the condition in 2006.
The second week of February was no different. A research study from the University of California Davis published in the February issue of “Autism Research” examined the effect of maternal and paternal age on the risk of autism.
This 10-year study examined 4.9 million births in the 1990s and found evidence to correlate an increased risk of autism with both increasing maternal and paternal age. The researchers found that older women had a higher risk of having a child with autism; specifically the study found that a woman who gave birth after age 40 was 50% more likely to have an autistic child compared with women who gave birth between ages 25 and 29.
This study found that the age of the father was not correlated with autism risk when the woman was over 30. However, in couples where the woman was younger than 30 and the father was over the age of 40, the likelihood of autism increased by almost 60%.
There is still much we don’t understand about why a child has autism. The cause of autism is likely multifactorial, and according to the results of this study and others it does seem that age may play a role.
However, according to the authors of the study, older mothers account for less than five percent of the increase in autism diagnoses in the past two decades. So clearly, age is not everything. There is still so much to learn about what exactly causes autism. Hopefully this study will point researchers in the right direction as to where to focus future research endeavors.

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