Perhaps you’ve seen headlines or even bothered to read past them in the recent reports linking autism severity and ultrasounds. As always with anything that’s been linked to autism, it’s best to look closely at the study itself to answer nagging questions like, “Oh my God, I had an ultrasound during pregnancy and what about autism severity?!” So below, a few possibly clarifying and potentially edifying observations.
The authors report finding a mathematical link between having a diagnostic ultrasound in the first trimester of pregnancy and increased severity of some autism symptoms in the resulting offspring, especially among children who are born with specific genetic differences that are associated with autism risk.
Ultrasounds have not been shown to cause autism
First, this is a mathematical link. This paper, by Sarah Jane Webb and colleagues and published in Autism Research, does not show that ultrasounds cause autism.
This paper’s findings relate only to first-trimester diagnostic ultrasounds
Second, these results are about diagnostic ultrasound in the first trimester. Women having these typically present to health care because of ominous or odd symptoms. The current indications for having a first-trimester diagnostic ultrasound include suspected ectopic pregnancy, pelvic pain, suspected multiple gestation, assessment for fetal anomalies and vaginal bleeding. Diagnostic ultrasounds in the first trimester are not routine. They mean someone thinks there’s a problem with the pregnancy or the dating of the pregnancy is unclear.