Pregnancy Weight Gain May Cause Autism?

Pregnant belly and flower cropped again.jpgThere are quite a few speculations as to what can cause autism, but never have I heard of this one before: Researchers from Utah claim they may have found some correlation between mothers' weight gain in pregnancy and Autism Spectrum Disorders. 

What is Autism Spectrum Disorders, otherwise known as ASD? It is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as Autism is a group of developmental brain disorders, collectively called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The term "spectrum" refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment, or disability, that children with ASD can have. Some children are mildly impaired by their symptoms, but others are severely disabled (Autism Spectrum Disorder). We have spoken before in Andrew's class about vaccinations possibly causing Autism, but never have I heard of the correlation with pregnancy weight gain. 

Researchers from the University of Utah have formed the hypothesis that pregnancy weight gain may serve as an important marker for autism's underlying gestational etiology (Bilder,New Study Examines Link Between Pregnancy Weight Gain, Autism Spectrum Disorders). Their null hypothesis would then be that pregnancy weight gain is not an indication to possible birth of a child with autism. In order to accept either one of these hypotheses we must dig deeper into the study conducted. 

Researchers concluded these findings after two study groups were conducted. One group consisted of 128 diagnosed children with autism spectrum disorders (variable group) whereas the other group had just under 11,000 non diagnosed children of the same age and gender (control group). Scientists observed each child's birth certificate and measured the amount of weight gain their mothers experienced during pregnancy. They also measured a separate group of participants consisting of 288 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, but compared their data with that of the children's non-autistic siblings. All studies concluded no direct causation between weight gain and ASD, but did show signs of correlation. Therefore, scientists were able to conclude that there may be an existing third variable: one that causes both weight gain and ASD. 

There is always chance, but what other issues can be found within the experiment that may have skewed the results? First off, there is no equivalency in the amount of children used in the separate studies. Clearly there is about 11,000 in one and only 128 in the other. Mothers of the autistic children could have also been biased when giving their information in regards to their pregnancy. If the trial were to have been one-sided blind (mothers told to fill out the survey for separate reasoning) maybe the results could have been more solidified.

But as for now, what we can conclude from the trail is not causation, but most definitely a possibility of correlation- a third variable in particular. So for the hypotheses proposed, we are going to accept the researchers' hypothesis that weight gain during pregnancy may be a sign of birthing a potentially autistic child. So not only will mothers fear vaccinations, but excessive weight gain as well.

  1. "Autism Spectrum Disorder." NIMH RSS. National Institute of Health, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.
  2. "New Study Examines Link Between Pregnancy Weight Gain, Autism Spectrum Disorders." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.


This is really interesting! Autism is a confusing thing to study, especially because we are not sure if it develops before or after birth or if it can be prevented. There is so much that is still unknown unfortuantely.

Reflecting on the idea that weight gain during pregnancy can cause autism, there is a third variable that comes to my mind. If the mother is not properly nourishing herself, she is therefore not nourishing her baby and may also gain weight as a result of unhealthy eating habits. In order to further study this idea, I think it is imortant for scientists to study the type of nutrition and nourishment a baby needs to thrive. In my opinion, if mothers could focus on eating all of the right things and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the baby would benefit as well.

Here is a link that describes a balanced diet for pregnant women. After reading through it, I feel it is fair to conclude that not every woman follows these guidelines, and some don't even come close to following these guidelines.

I find this article particularly interesting because I had no idea that weight gain during autism could possibly cause this disorder. I have done a lot of research on autism and speeches, and never once did I find this as a cause. I truly would take a stance that it does not have to do with autism. I truly believe if a pregnant women is not eating healthy, and gaining an innapropriate amound of weight, it could lead to dysfunctions. Although, I did not realize this could lead to weight gain.
This article in fact, goes against my argument and explains that weight gain COULD lead to a higher RISK of autism.

After learning about vaccines and autism in class I have become very fascinated. I have never heard that pregnancy weight gain could cause it though. My only question is, how is the weight gain causing it? Is it the mothers diet? I would be interested to know that. Personally, I do not believe that unhealthy eating during pregnancy could go as far as to cause autism. I do believe defects could happen but not a disease. Obviously, I am no doctor and have no business making assumptions so I leave it to research to decide. I further researched this topic. I researched as to why mothers gain weight during pregnancy. I think this would be important for expecting mothers for other precautions as well. I found a livestrong article about why mothers are gaining weight in the first month of pregnancy. The three causes had nothing to do with eating though. Much to my surprise the tree causes are blood volume, fat reserves and breast tissue. All of these things cannot be helped by eating healthy, they are natural. So how does a woman really try to not gain weight during pregnancy? I think this is a very open ended assumption and I think further research needs to be done. Here is the link to the article I researched.

Leave a comment

Subscribe to receive notifications of follow up comments via email.
We are processing your request. If you don't see any confirmation within 30 seconds, please reload your page.

Search This Blog

Full Text  Tag

Recent Entries

No-Shave November: Do Women Hate Our Beards?
This fall, I've been seeing a lot of scruff. Whether it's the boys from Boston growing out their playoff…
Do Brain Games Work?
I am unfortunately a part of the seemingly large percentage of people who believe they have a bad memory.…
Home Sweet Home: Defining and Treating Homesickness
"Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out…

Old Contributions