BACKGROUND: Preterm birth has been linked to increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but how this risk changes with gestational age at birth has not been well characterised, especially with regard to co-occurring intellectual disability (ID).
METHODS: Register-based cohort study of singleton births in 1984-2007 in Stockholm County, Sweden (N total: 480 728; n ASD: 10 025). We assessed overall and sex-specific, gestational week-specific prevalence estimates and risk ratios of ASD with and without ID.
RESULTS: Preterm and postterm births were associated with elevated risk of ASD, and the relationship between gestational age at birth and ASD with and without ID differed in males and females. Risk of ASD without ID was higher in preterm births among both sexes and decreased continuously with increasing length of gestation. Risk of ASD with ID was higher in both preterm and postterm births among both sexes, with postterm birth in females being more highly associated with ASD with ID than that in males.
CONCLUSIONS: The relationship between gestational age at birth and ASD differs by the presence/absence of co-occurring ID and fetal sex. Both preterm and postterm birth are associated with increased risk of ASD. Risk of ASD is not constant within conventionally defined gestational age at birth periods. Further research on mechanism underlying these associations is needed.
- Journal Article