Research has shown that women with autism may be more likely to have certain complications during pregnancy than other women.

A new study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that women with autism were more likely to experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy than women without the disorder.

University of Cambridge researchers emphasized the importance of mental health screening and support for these women.

“The findings also suggest that people with autism may benefit from the amenities of prenatal health care. This may include modifications to the sensory environment of health care settings, as well as modifications to how information is communicated during prenatal appointments,” co-author Rosie Holt, a researcher said. Associate in the university’s Autism Research Center, in a statement.

Researchers surveyed more than 900 women about their pregnancy experience for the study. Of the participants, 417 had autism and 524 did not. In general, people with autism were more likely to report prenatal depression and anxiety. About 24% of women with autism experienced depression, compared to 9% of other women. And 48% of women with autism reported experiencing anxiety during pregnancy, compared to 14% of other women.

Pregnant mothers with autism were more likely to have sensory problems during pregnancy. Many reported feeling exhausted by the smells, sights, lights, and sounds during their prenatal appointments.

These women were also less satisfied overall with pregnancy-related health care. Distrust of healthcare professionals and feeling that their questions and concerns were not taken seriously by their doctor were common complaints. They were also less likely to be satisfied with how information was presented to them during their appointments.

“More research is important to look at the experiences of new parents with autism, who have been neglected in research,” Sir Simon Baron Cohen, director of the Center for Autism Research, said in a statement. “It is also important that this research is translated into health and social care policy and practice to ensure these parents have the timely support and adaptations they need.”

Previous research has also indicated that pregnant women with autism may be at greater risk of other pregnancy complications as well.

A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities analyzed the hospital discharge records of 1,706 women with intellectual or developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome. They found that pregnant women with intellectual or developmental disabilities were more likely to have pre-eclampsia, premature birth, fetal death, and prolonged hospitalization after childbirth.

And a 2018 study that just looked at women with autism found that they were at increased risk for preterm birth, particularly medically indicated preterm labor, but not spontaneous preterm birth. Maternal autism was also associated with an increased risk of elective caesarean section and pre-eclampsia, but not with emergency caesarean section, low infant Apgar score, gestational diabetes or stillbirth.

Public research continues to suggest that pregnant women with autism should receive increased monitoring and support during prenatal care to ensure healthy outcomes for both mother and baby.

Autism is a developmental disorder often characterized by difficulties in social interactions and communication skills. It is usually diagnosed in childhood and can affect people to varying degrees. People with autism often have difficulties communicating and expressing emotions, as well as sensitivity to light, sound, touch, or taste.

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