Can Birth Injury Cause Autism?


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) varies in severity but is a lifelong developmental disability. While researchers do not know the cause or causes of autism, it has been linked with other medical issues. For example, the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) reports that 7% of children who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy are also diagnosed with autism as compared to 1% of children who do not have cerebral palsy are diagnosed with autism.


Similarly, a 2017 study conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that certain types of complications during pregnancy and childbirth might significantly increase the risk that a child will develop autism. The researchers found that those children exposed to complications during childbirth were 10% likelier to develop autism while those who were exposed before labor were 22% likelier to develop autism. Among children who were exposed to complications both before and during labor, the risk of developing autism was 44% higher.


When doctors fail to properly monitor mothers and their unborn infants, the babies might suffer birth injuries and have a higher risk of developing autism. If you suffered complications during pregnancy or childbirth and wonder whether your child’s autism might be linked to the complications, you should speak to the birth injury attorneys at Raynes & Lawn.

Can Trauma Cause Autism?

Can a traumatic birth cause autism? Researchers are unsure of the specific causes of autism. However, as previously described, children who suffer certain types of birth injuries have a heightened risk of later being diagnosed with ASD. Cerebral palsy is a common type of birth injury suffered by children. Some cases of cerebral palsy are caused by trauma during labor and delivery such as when a doctor improperly uses forceps or a vacuum extractor or fails to identify birth asphyxia in which the infant’s oxygen supply is cut off temporarily.


The researchers at Kaiser Permanente found that preeclampsia and birth asphyxia were linked to a higher risk of developing autism. Other complications also were linked to an increased risk of autism but at lower percentages.


The complications that were linked to the development of autism include the following:

  • Preeclampsia
  • Birth asphyxia
  • Improperly positioned fetus (transverse or breech)
  • Fetal dystocia
  • Placental abruption
  • Maternal diabetes

When these complications are present, they not only increase the risk of autism but also the risk of serious injuries and harm to the baby. This makes it critical for doctors to properly monitor pregnant mothers and fetuses so that complications can be promptly diagnosed and treated.

Birth Injuries And Autism

It is important to note that autism is not a birth injury or brain injury. However, many birth injuries such as cerebral palsy are primarily caused by damage to the brain during childbirth. Children with autism have structural differences in their brains, including abnormalities of the brain’s white matter.

Birth Injuries And Autism

Abnormalities of the white matter are also seen in some patients with brain injuries. Researchers are currently looking at the link between autism and the development of white matter.In infants, injuries to the white matter typically occur when the oxygen supply is disrupted during pregnancy or delivery. This is particularly true when an infant suffers from birth asphyxia or when a mother has preeclampsia that is not promptly diagnosed and treated. This might indicate that damage to the white matter might be a factor in whether a baby might develop autism later on.

What To Do

If your baby had a traumatic birth and shows signs of potential autism, you should address your concerns with your child’s pediatrician. Getting an autism diagnosis early can improve your child’s potential outcomes. Early autism intervention has been shown to lead to better outcomes for children later in life.


If you think that your child’s birth injury was caused by your medical provider’s negligence, you should also speak to the experienced birth injury attorneys at Raynes & Lawn. We can review your child’s medical records to determine whether the doctor’s care failed to meet the expected standard of care for other medical professionals in the same field of practice. We have more than five decades of experience fighting for the rights of negligence victims and can explain whether your case might be viable.


Filing a birth injury lawsuit might help you to recover compensation for your losses, including the costs involved with treating your child’s injuries and related conditions. Call us today for a free consultation at 1-800-535-1797.


For the general public:  This Blog/Website is made available by the law firm publisher, Raynes & Lawn, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.


For attorneys:  This Blog/Website is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients.  Due to the dynamic nature of legal doctrines, what might be accurate one day may be inaccurate the next. As such, the contents of this blog must not be relied upon as a basis for arguments to a court or for your advice to clients without, again, further research or a consultation with our professionals.