Sunday, February 25, 2018

A New Study Is Raising Fears About Links Between Prenatal Ultrasounds and Autism

A new study is assessing the rise of autism and other developmental disorders and questioning whether prenatal scans could be partially to blame for increased rates of autism in children. 

 The study evaluated 420 different children. Those with autism spectrum disorder were exposed to greater mean depth of ultrasonographic penetration during the first and second trimesters, compared with typically developing children and during the first trimester compared with developmentally delayed children. There was no association made between the number of the scans, or the duration of the ultrasounds, and autism spectrum.

We all love getting ultrasounds and pictures of our developing babies to be to share around with friends and family, show work colleagues and post on Facebook.  It’s important to remember however that ultrasounds aren’t just another picture. Ultrasounds are a medical procedure which involves sound waves that could, in theory, affect a growing baby.

With the recent rises in autism spectrum disorder and other developmental conditions, researchers have been trying to pinpoint the exact causes, and one of the areas they looked at were prenatal ultrasounds. Despite the fact that autism rates in children seem to be plateauing, scientists are still very interested in narrowing down the cause. Autism is more common among family members, and scientists believe that they have narrowed down particular genetic hot spots which may contribute. There are other factors which can contribute to autism rates such as maternal obesity and older parents.

This latest study, published on February 12th in the JAMA Pediatrics  suggests no, prenatal ultrasounds aren’t the cause of developmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder. They found interestingly that children with autism were actually exposed to less prenatal ultrasounds. These results would be ‘very reassuring’ to parents the study coauthor Joki Abbot MD MSc HCM  said. “At this time, there is no evidence that ultrasound is a primary contributor to poor developmental outcomes when delivered within medical guidelines,” she says. Jodi is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine.

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