Dr. Shahal Rozenblatt, Clinical Neuropsychologist, New York

JPost- Shorter spacing between births may raise risk of autism

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Shorter spacing between births may raise risk of autism
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People who tend to raise large families won’t be pleased to hear about the latest retrospective study published in the journal Pediatrics, which found that the shorter the spacing between births, the higher the risk that the next child will suffer from autism. The research by Columbia University Prof. Peter Bearman and colleagues, who studied the records of over 500,000 California births between 1992 and 2002, suggests that babies born less than 24 months after their older sibling are significantly more likely to be autistic than those born at least three years afterwards.

The New York researchers controlled for the age of the parents and other factors and excluded children whose older sibling was autistic. They were surprised to find the connection, but found no other explanation than birth spacing, as they had ruled out subjects with other risks for autism. But the researchers stressed that more studies are needed to confirm their findings.

Although the results were clear, the reasons for the phenomenon were not. It was suggested that the baby born within two years of a sibling’s birth might have suffered from inadequate nutrition, including lack of the B-vitamin folic acid, which can cause birth defects. It could also be a combination of factors.

Asked to comment, longtime Shaare Zedek Medical Center neonatologist Prof.

Arthur Eidelman told The Jerusalem Post that the finding was a most intriguing observation, and compatible with previous observations that birth spacing is a factor in the health of the subsequent pregnancy; as shortened spacing is also associated with an increased rate of prematurity. As we do not fully understand the mechanism, I cannot say a nutrition supplement will solve the whole [autism] problem, but preconception supplementation of folic acid is definitely recommended.

In 1998, British doctor Andrew Wakefield published a paper in The Lancet in which he claimed that autism was caused by measles-mumps-and rubella vaccination. Many people believed his findings and avoided giving their children MMR vaccines, thus leading to more cases. Almost a year ago, the journal apologized and retracted Wakefield’s paper when it was proven that his work was deliberately faked junk science. This was followed less than two weeks ago by an analysis in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) proving Wakefield’s study was fraudulent based on data falsification. According to experts, one out of 100 children suffer from some kind of autism, with it more common in boys than in girls.