Research News: PCOS and Autism Risk

The very word…AUTISM… Brings deep fear to the hearts of every mother and future mother. We all envision having a beautiful and healthy baby, fully capable of interacting with us on all levels. Having an autistic child is a one of a mother’s greatest fears.

When the story hit the news a few months back that women with PCOS have a higher chance of having a baby with autism, it was one more dagger into the hearts of women with PCOS, who already have some much to deal with. Just having fertility problems isn’t enough!?

Before we all panic, let’s look for a moment at what the study actually said, even assuming its message was correct. It said that the overall incidence in Sweden of a baby with autism is 1.5%. If a woman had ever been given a label of PCOS, the risk rose by 59%, based on the registries for children diagnosed with autism between 1984 and 2007. That would mean is that for every 100 children, the chance of one having autism would rise by about .8 children per 100. That would mean that for every 100 children born to women with PCOS, there would be less than 1 additional child born who has autism per the 100 children. So though the statistics said the risk rose 59% for a woman with PCOS to have an autistic child, in absolute terms, the overall increased chance of having a child with autism was still quite slight.

Statistics are a funny game, and one can play with the numbers to make risks appear dramatic when they are minimal. There are terms used… absolute risk and relative risk. Relative risk can inflate the appearance of risk dramatically while the absolute risk remains small. For example, the chance of something is 1 in 10,000 and with an intervention rises to 2 in 10,000. That is a doubling of risk… so high! But in real, or absolute terms, the risk still remains very tiny.

As well, reviewing data from years ago based on records, can be very misleading since a teenager with acne may have been labeled as PCOS incorrectly… realize that all that was needed was one chart notation on one occasion to give the label of PCOS to a woman. So the take home message here is that even if this study is accurate in its conclusion, which is not necessarily true, the real risk of a woman with PCOS having a baby with autism is still very low.

Let’s talk a bit about why autism may occur and what you can do to actually lower your risk. The human brain is amazingly complex and is created during the fetal development in utero and continues after birth. What is critical to proper brain development is clear… you need the full array of nutrients and the avoidance of brain toxins. The first thing a woman must do to increase the odds of having a baby with a healthy brain is to get fantastic nutrition before conception…. high levels of omega 3, Vitamin D, folate and all the B vitamins, plenty of phytonutrients antioxidants like Vitamins C, A, and E. Avoid exposure to toxins as much as possible… get a water and air purifier, buy all organic food, avoid plastic contacting your food, use organic skincare products and makeup. Also… control stress, get exercise, and plenty of sleep at night, and reduce exposures to electromagnetic radiation. Get to a healthy weight by eating mostly fresh vegetables, some fruit, raw nuts and seeds, and avoid all processed foods and added sweeteners… real or synthetic.  Space meals throughout the day.

Get outside if possible and walk barefoot on grass or sand when weather permits, and take up meditation or guided imagery. Use a far infrared sauna pre-conception if possible, and do a supervised detox. All I’ve suggested will likely make you healthier and a healthy you creates a healthy baby. Try to breast feed for at least one year, preferably two, and give yourself and the baby probiotics to help the gut microbiome stay healthy as well.

The topic of vaccines is a sensitive one, but there are some experts who advise higher risk individuals to delay all vaccinations for at least the first year of life, a critical time for the baby’s immune system to develop. It’s a challenging political issue, so that’s about all I’ll say on the topic at this time.

Women with PCOS have many challenges to deal with, but as we are learning more and more about the intricacies of the human body, these challenges can be met and you can overcome them and live the life you desire and deserve.

*This is a repost of a guest post Dr. Gersh orginally posted on PCOS Diva at: http://pcosdiva.com/2016/02/pcos-and-autism/

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