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Autistic people are more likely to experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy

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Autistic people are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety during pregnancy, according to new research from the University of Cambridge. The results are published in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities and have important implications for supporting autistic people during pregnancy.

In a study conducted by researchers at the Center for Autism Research, 524 people without autism and 417 people with autism completed online survey about his experience pregnancy. Anyone who was pregnant at the time of submitting the answer or had previously given birth could participate.

The study found that autistic parents were about three times more likely than non-autistic parents to report experiencing prenatal depression (9% of non-autistic parents and 24% of autistic parents) and anxiety (14% of non-autistic parents and 48% of autistic parents).

Autistic respondents were also less satisfied with their health care during pregnancy. Respondents with autism were less likely to trust professionals, felt that professionals took their questions and concerns seriously, felt that professionals treated them with respect, and were satisfied with how information was presented to them during encounters. In addition, respondents with autism were more likely to experience sensory challenges during pregnancy and were more likely to feel overwhelmed by the sensory environment of prenatal encounters.

Dr Sarah Hampton, lead researcher on the study, said: “This study shows that people with autism are more vulnerable to mental health difficulties during pregnancy. It is vital that effective mental health screening and support is available to autistic people during pregnancy.’

Dr. Rosie Holt, a member of the research team, added: “The findings also suggest that people with autism may benefit from adaptations to prenatal care. This may include adjusting the sensory environment in health care settings, as well as adjusting the way information is communicated during antenatal appointments.” .

Dr Kerry Ellison, Deputy Director of the Center for Autism Research and a member of the team, said: “We are grateful to members of the autistic community for their feedback as we developed this study. It is vital that autistic people with lived experience helps shape the research we do, and we keep these priorities as a clear focus.”

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Center for Autism Research and a member of the research team, said: “It is important that more research is carried out exploring the experiences of young autistic parents who have been overlooked in research. It is also vital that this research is translated into health and social care policy and practice to ensure that these parents receive the support and adaptation they need in time.”

Guidelines for inclusive language in autism research

Additional information:
Sarah Hampton and others. The Perinatal Experience of Autistic People I: A Review of the Pregnancy Experience, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s10803-022-05754-1

Citation: People with autism more likely to experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy (2022, October 26) Retrieved October 26, 2022, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-10-autistic-people-depression-anxiety-pregnancy. html

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