Parental mental health disorders linked to the risk of autism in children

Autism Spectrum Disorders are a group of disorders which are complex, heritable Neurodevelopmental disorders affecting about 28 million people worldwide. Currently the understanding of causes of ASD is multifactorial, more commonly understood by genetic and environmental factors. In a recent cohort study published in an International Scientific journal, The Lancet, researchers from Sweden and Finland conducted a large population-based study to look at the possible association between psychiatric disorders in parents and the risk of the unborn child developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD).They found that the highest risk of offspring autism was observed in children where both the parents had mental health disorders, with affected mothers showing a higher risk compared to affected fathers alone.Parental mental health conditions are likely to influence the risk of ASD in children, partly by shared genetics.A Danish Study found that maternal mental health disorders were one of the strongest prenatal risk factors for Autism. Maternal stress during pregnancy has the risk of increased likelihood of childhood autism due to a dysregulated immune system. The abnormal physiological stress reactivity itself can trigger abnormal responses in the offspring increasing the risk of autism. The serotonin transporter (SERT) gene is particularly relevant for the connection between maternal stress exposure and ASD because of its well-established function in stress reactivity. This gene is also associated with the rigid compulsive behaviors of autism. The risk of autism was significantly more across all parental psychiatric disorder categories, with maternal diagnoses associated with higher risk, more so with neurodevelopmental disorders, mood disorders, neurotic disorders, and psychoactive substance use disorders. However, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders in either parent were found to increase the risk of offspring ASD equally.The findings highlight the importance of assessing various parental mental health disorders conditions to identify high-risk children for early interventions and improved outcomes.(Dr. Poonam Santhosh, Consultant Psychiatrist, KMC Hospital, Mangalore)Empower your health: How PrEP & testing can prevent HIV

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