Beyond Genetics: Prenatal Risk Factors for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Pregnancy is the first step toward parenting, but the journey has its ups and downs. One moment, you feel elated about holding your bundle of joy. The next moment, you experience stress about your baby’s well-being. You can feel particularly apprehensive if you have a family history of conditions like autistic spectrum disorder.

Research suggests that nearly 20% of siblings of children with ASD receive a diagnosis. It means you may lose your sleep if you already have a kid with autism. Even first-time parents may worry if a distant relative has a similar condition. While most couples know about the connection between genetics and autism, it isn’t the only risk factor to worry about.

The truth is that autism develops from a combination of factors- genetic and non-genetic. The latter are lesser-known factors, but it doesn’t make them less significant. But the good thing is that you can control these environmental factors and lower the risk to your baby. Let us list the non-genetic prenatal risk factors for autistic spectrum disorders.

Over-The-Counter Painkillers and Medications

While your doctor may prescribe medications and supplements during pregnancy, they are the only ones you should use. Over the years, research has linked OTC painkillers like Tylenol with the risk of ASD in unborn babies. The medicine may affect fetal brain development, leading to a 20% higher risk of the condition.

The website of TorHoerman Law offers a comprehensive overview of the Tylenol Lawsuit for Autism. It includes information on eligibility factors, evidence to validate the claim, compensation value, and the complete process. The site also has a chatbot that can help you assess your chances when filing a Tylenol Lawsuit against a manufacturer or distributor. Getting a free consultation makes you more confident about going ahead.

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Tylenol autism lawsuits set things right for victims as they ensure compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment. While a lawsuit cannot reverse the damage, getting justice gives you peace of mind.

Toxin Exposure

Apart from over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol, common household chemicals can elevate the risk of autism spectrum disorder for your baby. Toxins abound in common things such as paints, polishes, cleaners, and even personal care products. Likewise, exposure to air pollutants, water contaminants, and pesticides in food can be hazardous during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, pregnant women seldom realize the lurking threats in their surroundings. But awareness can help you limit your exposure and reduce the risk of birth defects. For example, you can switch to organic foods and opt for natural cleaners and personal care products to minimize exposure to everyday toxins.

Pregnancy Complications

Another ASD risk factor beyond genetics is a complicated pregnancy. Remember that not all pregnancies are smooth, and you may encounter a problem at some point. Most pregnancy complications are easy to handle, but your baby is more likely to be on the spectrum in the following cases-

  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Preterm birth (before 26 weeks of gestation)
  • Low birth weight
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preeclampsia
  • Bacterial infection
  • Nutritional gaps during pregnancy 
  • Pregnancies spaced less than a year apart

Advanced Age

Delaying parenting is a common practice because modern couples want to focus on their careers and financial stability before starting a family. But it may not be the best decision from the medical perspective. Early studies show that children born to older parents are at a higher risk of developing autism. The risk persists even for couples without a family history or genetic link.

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Although more research is necessary for this context, having children sooner than later makes sense when it comes to addressing such risks. 

Debunking Myths

While pregnant women should worry about these non-genetic factors, they must steer clear of some myths as well. Researchers have done their bit to prove that some things do not cause autism. For example, some women avoid vaccines, fearing the implications on fetal brain development. But they do not cause autism; rather, skipping them places you and your baby at risk of diseases.

Parental temperament is another factor that has nothing to do with ASD in babies. As a parent, you need not feel guilty or fearful about your child developing autism only because you behaved a certain way during pregnancy. 


A lot of information is available about autism and its risk factors. But they go far beyond genetics, so you cannot really be sure even if the condition does not run in the family. At the same time, you should not bear the burden of guilt for causing your child’s autism. However, being aware of these prenatal factors and avoiding them is the best thing you can do as a would-be parent.  

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