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Low Birth Weight Babies Have High Autism Risk

premature babies

Premature babies are more likely to have autism.

Babies born under 4 pounds, 7 ounces, are five times more likely to have autism, a new study published in Pediatrics has found.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia looked at more than 1,000 children born with low birth weights (under 2000 grams), most often due to premature birth, and found they had a higher-than-average risk of developing autism spectrum disorders.

MedPage Today reports that while it has been well established that, “… low birth weight and prematurity put children at risk of cognitive and motor disability …,” this new study confirms that the risk of autism spectrum disorders among these children is high as well, though it doesn’t prove any direct link between low birth weight and autism.

The study also found that boys born with low birth weight were more likely to have autism than girls.

In an interview with CNN, the lead researcher explained that a key takeaway from the research is that children born with low birth weights should be screened for autism at an early age so that children who need intervention will receive it as soon as possible. Jennifer Pinto-Martin, Ph.D., director of the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia, said, “Developmental screening is often something that is pushed to the side. It’s important that we do a really good job of screening every single child.”

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