A recent study by Drexel University states that having older parents, particularly older mothers, can increase the risk of a child having an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Dr. Brian Lee, epidemiology professor at Drexel’s School of Public Health, analyzed a database of over 400,000 births to study the possibility of parental age playing a significant factor in the child developing ASD. Dr. Lee stated, “The mother’s risk seems to be, quantitatively speaking, more important than the father’s”. He continued, “Having a mother who is 40 is going to have a bigger effect on the child’s Autism risk than having a father who is 40 years old.”
Mothers between the ages of 40 and 45 were found to be 75 percent more likely to have a child on the Autism spectrum, as opposed to younger mothers. Fathers of this age range, on the other hand, had only a 14% added risk. According to Drexel’s evaluation, the risk of having a child with ASD accelerated significantly for women as they age, while risk increased in small increments for aging fathers. Furthermore, Drexel analyzed the relationship between the ages of both parents, and discovered that older fathers only increased the risk of having a child with ASD when the mother was of a young age. Dr. Lee added, “The effect of the father seems to essentially be washed out when you have older mothers.”
Although the results of the study may seem alarming, Dr. Lee states that women should not be discouraged from having children. In fact, less than 2 percent of the oldest age of women in the study gave birth to children who developed ASD. The reason why women appear to have a stronger risk is still being investigated, but researchers have reason to believe that environmental risk factors, as well as complications in pregnancy, could underlie the effects of a mother’s age on a child’s risk of ASD.
Knowing that age could be a significant biomarker for ASD, and the fact that age seems to affect moms and dads differently, opens up big opportunities for investigation that medical researchers should focus on in the near future.
The ICare4Autism International Conference will be discussing additional Autism research and scientific advances on July 1st in NYC. Speakers include Dr. Celine Saulnier, Clinical Director for Research, Marcus Autism Center and Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Saulnier will be discussing biomarkers for ASD, as well as detecting the risks for ASD in a child’s first year of life. To hear Dr. Saulnier speak, please select tickets here.
As Autism Awareness Month continues, ICare4Autism will be sharing additional ways that researchers are studying Autism disorders. We will also be highlighting several self-advocates and stories of hope. We hope that you will share these stories, and use the month of April to spread awareness about Autism! Please make a difference and donate today!