Autistic boys exposed to higher levels of hormones in womb, study finds

Autistic boys exposed to higher levels of hormones in womb, study finds

Results may help scientists unravel some of the underlying causes of autism. Photograph: Alamy

By Ian Sample

Research on children in Denmark has found that boys with autism were more likely to have been exposed to higher levels of hormones in their mother’s wombs than those who developed normally.

Boys diagnosed with autism and related disorders had, on average, raised levels of testosterone, cortisol and other hormones in the womb, according to analyses of amniotic fluid that was stored after their mothers had medical tests during pregnancy.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence that the biological foundations of autism are laid down well before birth and involve factors that go beyond the child’s genetic make-up.

The results may help scientists to unravel some of the underlying causes of autism and explain why boys are four to five times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition, which affects around one percent of the population.

Amniotic fluid surrounds babies in the womb and contains hormones and other substances that they have passed through their urine. The liquid is collected for testing when some women have an amniocentesis around four months into their pregnancy.  Continue reading

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