How do prenatal factors affect autism and other conditions?
One in every 59 children in the United
States have autism spectrum disorder. At the present it is not clear why autism
has increased in recent decades, but our research team has found that when
mothers are obese during pregnancy chances for autism double. With mothers
who are obese and have diabetes, the odds quadruple. We determined this by recruiting
8600 mother-infant pairs at birth and follow them prospectively from birth up
to age 21. Our research was motivated by the growing evidence that chronic
disease is a result of accumulated risk over the life course starting with the
fetal period. This has born true for autism and diseases like obesity
diabetes and hypertension. Using our longitudinal data we have gained
important insight into early life origins of pediatric and adult diseases.