Mothers who experience greater stress during pregnancy appear to be at increased risk of having children with autism-like traits, a new study suggests.
Researchers found a connection between the hardship mothers experienced during pregnancy and the likelihood that their child would have difficulty making friends or exhibit odd speech patterns, clumsiness and other autism-like characteristics.
The findings come from a long-term look at 150 families affected by severe ice storms in Quebec, Canada in January 1998. All of the mothers in the study were pregnant during the ice storm or became pregnant shortly thereafter.
Specifically, researchers found that at age 6½, autism-like traits were most prominent in children whose mothers experienced the greatest hardship during the ice storm — going more days without electricity, for example.
What’s more, the findings reported this month in the journal Psychiatry Research suggest that the effect of a mother’s stress was most pronounced during the first trimester of pregnancy.