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Is Neonatal Jaundice Linked To Increased Risk Of Autism?

Topic Overview

Autism has now become quite a common developmental disorder. A child with autism will have problems with behavior. The child will have difficulties comprehending and understanding what is being told. There will also be significant delays in the child actually starting to speak. The etiology for autism is unknown. However, some studies have suggested a link between neonatal or infant jaundice and autism [1].

A specific case controlled study on studying this link was carried out. All the procedure and diagnostic codes were used to identify autism and increased bilirubin or hyperbilirubinemia in these children. It was observed in the study that children with a diagnosis of neonatal jaundice and treatment with phototherapy were more likely to develop autism later on than children who did not have this condition [1]. The article below gives out the detail between the association of neonatal jaundice and autism.

Is Neonatal Jaundice Linked To Increased Risk Of Autism?

Is Neonatal Jaundice Linked To Increased Risk Of Autism?

Neonatal Jaundice is quite a common occurrence in newborn babies. However, this condition increases the likelihood of the baby developing autism later on in life is something that has been found in studies. This has been reported by researchers from Denmark in an article published in a journal named Pediatrics. Neonatal Jaundice is also known by the name of Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia which occurs when there is increased level of bilirubin in the body causing the body and the eyes to have a yellowish tinge to it [2].

The red blood cells release bilirubin in the blood which is what causes hyperbilirubinemia. Another cause is related to the liver which is still in the developing stage in a newborn baby and is not able to metabolize bilirubin adequately. Neonatal jaundice develops within a couple of days of the birth of the baby. Exposure to sunlight or phototherapy normally cures the condition within a few days [2].

The study that was researching the link between autism and neonatal jaundice analyzed data of children born between 1994 and 2004 who developed jaundice and got treated for it found that these children had increased risk of developing autism. The data was quite broad and studied over 35,000 babies who had jaundice immediately after birth. The study showed that approximately 10% of these children went on to develop autism [2].

According to researchers, the reason behind it is that prolonged exposure to bilirubin interferes with the way the brain functions causing the child to develop developmental problems that may persist for the rest of the life of the child. Researchers also suggest that this risk is more in babies who are born to mothers who have had multiple pregnancies. It was also observed that the risk of jaundice and resultant autism was more in people who were born during the winter months. The reason behind this is stated to be reduced exposure to sunlight and the increased likelihood of infections [2].

With regard to the mothers, a female carrying her first child will have antibodies that are significantly different to a female who has had multiple pregnancies and is pregnant again. Additionally, there may also be certain amount of difference in the healthcare received by a first time mother than a female who has had multiple children, although this is quite rare. These factors mentioned above require further more detailed research according to the experts [2].

The researchers however have concluded that gestational age, number of pregnancies, and the season when the baby is born all play a key factor in whether the baby will have neonatal jaundice or not. The researchers also mention that in the study they have not looked into how severe the jaundice was in cases where it led to the development of autism in children.

In conclusion, if the researchers and the studies they have conducted are to be believed, then there is a clear link between neonatal or infant jaundice and autism. Neonatal jaundice is quite a common condition and many babies have it within the first few days of their life. It usually resolves with phototherapy and exposure to sunlight [1, 2].

However, various studies conducted have concluded that neonatal jaundice is quite closely connected with increased risk of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. This risk increases in females who have had multiple pregnancies and get pregnant again compare to first time pregnant women. Another factor that the researchers have pointed out is the season when a child is born [1, 2].

In the study, they have observed that children who are born in winters carry more risk of having neonatal jaundice than children who are born in the summer season. This is due to reduced exposure to sunlight. They have made a mention that more studies need to be conducted to identify whether the presence of antibodies in first time mothers and multiparous females have a role to play in the development of neonatal jaundice and the increased risk of autism later on in life [1, 2].


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 29, 2021

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