Inflammation During Pregnancy Increases Autism Risk

Autism is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with autism with an average prevalence of about 1%. A recent study in South Korea reported a prevalence of 2.6%. The causes of autism are not clear, but it is likely that both genetics and environment play a role. A new study has revealed that there is a significant association between inflammation in women during pregnancy and the risk for autism in the child.

The study involved 1.6 million pregnancies. Offspring born in Finland between 1987 and 2005 were followed up until 2007. The researchers discovered that there was a greater than 40% increase in the risk of childhood autism following exposure to increased maternal inflammation.

Should women take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) during pregnancy to reduce the risk? Many medical professionals do not recommend this, as it is not known if NSAIDs are safe to take during pregnancy. There are many foods that have natural anti-inflammatory properties. Including more of these foods in the pregnant women’s diet is definitely a better option.

Inflammation can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Obesity, stress, autoimmune disease and allergies are also common causes of inflammation. To reduce of risk of autism in children, pregnant women should make a significant effort to avoid infection.

Here are my few preventive tips for the pregnant women:

  1. Wash hands often and thoroughly. 
  2. Avoid people who are sick.
  3. Eat foods that are clean, fresh, and well cooked.
  4. Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acid sources, herbs and nuts.
  5. Limit the intake of refined carbohydrates and processed foods.
  6. Have a healthy routine for work, activities and rest.
  7. Manage stress proactively.

There is no cure for autism. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement. Most health care professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.

Dietary interventions have been helpful in some children; however parents should be careful that their child’s nutritional status is carefully followed by an experienced specialist dietitian. For more information, please read Nutritional Therapy for Children with Autism, and my book – Dietary Intervention for Children with Autism.


  1.  AS Brown, A Sourander, S Hinkka-Yli-Salomäki, IW McKeague, J Sundvall and H-M Surcel (2013). Elevated maternal C-reactive protein and autism in a national birth cohort. Molecular Psychiatry , (22 January 2013) | doi:10.1038/mp.2012.197. (available online: