Thursday, December 15, 2005

In the beginning

I started thinking about it months ago when I read this post by Kyra on This Mom, and found out that Fluffy was conceived via in-vitro fertilization after a long struggle with infertility.

I continued to think about it as I considered the explosion in the rate of autism diagnoses in recent years. Clearly, I thought, exposure to mercury via immunizations is one thing that has changed in that time; what else has changed that perhaps I should consider?

I thought about it months later when Astryngia posted these thoughts about stressful pregnancies.

I thought about it most recently when I read Gretchen's post about Henry's difficult entry into the world.

It's still an incomplete thought, but it goes like this: how many of the children who are currently diagnosed with autism would not have made it, say, twenty years earlier? How many would never have been conceived? How many would have miscarried early? How many of them (how many of us?) would have died in childbirth? Without the tremendous medical advances that have been made in infertility treatment, perinatology and the maintenance of high-risk pregnancies, neonatal intensive care, etc., how many of our children would not have survived the first hours, the first days, the first weeks, the first months of life? How many would not have been success stories in Darwin's survival of the fittest?

There are a lot of us out here in the blogosphere posting about our children and our current struggles, victories, advances and setbacks with autism spectrum disorders. But not many of us have posted about the path that led us to where we are. It makes me wonder:

How many of us struggled with infertility? (I did.)

How many of us lost other pregnancies? (I did.)

How many of us had high-risk pregnancies with our ASD babies? (I did.)

How many of us had complicated or troubled deliveries? (I did.)

How many of our children had to remain in the hospital longer than the "typical" newborn? (Mine did.)

Maybe it's all a coincidence. But I'd be interested to know if anyone else has had a similar experience.


kristina said...

No to everything but: Charlie, big (8 lb 3 oz, 21 1/2 in--I am 5 feet tall) and beautiful began life in the ICU. He had contracted a strep-B infection during labor (21 hours). I had insisted on a natural delivery; I think a Caesarean might not have been a bad idea: They had to use a vacuum pump to get him out. He was my first (and last) pregnancy.

I pasted his sonograms into his babybook and his big brained head and huge eyes (the sockets) are exactly the same as when I watched him sleeping tonight.

My husband rehashes all this about once a month and I just shake my head and tell him, we have to take care of the boy in the house. You can kill yourself with regret and then what could we do for Charlie?

Octobermom said...

I was pregnant with India through what was probably the absolute saddest time in my life. My mother is determined to prove that my state of mind was what caused India's "problems". The pregnancy itself was easy and the delivery easier (35 minutes from first contraction to delivery).

We both, however, tested positive for Group B strep and remained in the hospital for 4 days when they sent us home and said India was "just perfect".



gretchen said...

This is exactly, EXACTLY, the type of conversation I have been wanting to have. My husband also likes to rehash the birth and say that "they didn't get Henry out fast enough". Could this be true?? Is it worth discussing? Could the answers help someone else?

I like to think that the scientists studying autism are already on this track, but one thing I've learned from Henry is that I can't assume any of the "experts" have thought of the same things we parents think of.

Looking forward to continuing this discussion...

Eileen said...

When I first got pregnant with Andrew, Brian was only 4 months old. I was teaching preschool at this time and I was tired all the time. I didn't remember feeling this way with Brian's pregnancy. I attributed the fatigue to now having a baby to look after while pregnant and teaching. It could have very well been, but my blood test came back that I was anemic and they put me on iron pills. I also had a reoccurring cold of some sort that I couldn't get rid of. I never went to the doctor because I didn't believe that I could take any medication. My doctor did tell me I could take tylenol and I did.

Andrew's birth was similar to Brian's with no complications.

I have compared the two of my boys so many times tying to figure out what was different.

Andrew was a pound heavier than Brian and I believe most of that weight was in his head. Brian had a small head so I noticed the size of Andrew's. Andrew had bigger hands, not sure if this is significant. Andrew had an undescended testicle and needed to have surgery at 18 mos to remove it. Andrew was jaundice. Brian was a good eater, nursed easily and gained weight quickly. Andrew had a hard time nursing and lost weight. Enough to alarm the doctor the have me keep bringing him in to monitor weight gain in the beginning months. Andrew was tongue tied and his frenulum clipped during the same surgery at 18 months. I thought here comes the speech after the tongue tied thing was taken care of, so another sad reality set in when he didn't improve in his speech from this surgery.

At 3 1/2 months old Andrew broke out in these weird oval shaped like hives on his little body two days after receiving a round of 4 shots.

Andrew broke out in a rash after taking amoxycilin. He has an overgrowth of yeast we are still trying to treat.

Anyway, although pregnancy and birth were not anything so different, there were these other factors that make me think often.

Anonymous said...

Easy pregnancy, 1 month early delivery but full-size, no newborn complications, emergency C-section (I'm too small to deliver, apparently), and he was a bit jandiced. I had one miscarriage after him and then one other child (no complications except for same C-section problem).

Anonymous said...

Yes to all the things you mentioned. G. was born at 34 weeks, stayed in the hospital 2 extra weeks. I had IUGR, pre-term labor, low amniotic fluid, bedrest, and G. was breech, resulting in a c-section. The interesting thing is that my buddy M. (whom I met in the special care nursery) had her son 10 weeks early, after pre-eclampsia, etc., and he was also diagnosed Asperger's.

We have never really re-hashed this at home, but I have discussed this with my other friends who have children. And it is amazing how many of us had something go wrong with our pregnancies, or had a child with a disability or some other issue.

But I am just glad G. is here. I had her sister S. 2 years later, perfect pregnancy, resulting in a c-section after no dilating. S. is neuro-typical.

You raise some very good questions.

Wendy said...

I don't think my pregnancy could have been more difficult. I was pregnant with twins and had a gallbladder attack the same day I found out I was pregnant. At 14 weeks they had to remove it (I frequently wonder if that's what "did it"). I experienced preterm labor starting at 24 weeks, high blood pressure, edema, protein in my urine, carpal tunnel syndrome, you name it, I had it. After being on bedrest for 2 months, I delivered the twins, via c-section at 34 weeks. My son, who is now autistic, was 5 pds. His twin sister was 5 pds, 11 oz. She ended up on oxygen and stayed in the NICU for a week. My son came home with me two days later and has been healthy, except for one ear infection, since the day he was born.

I've called to see if there was thimerisol in any of the vacs the twins received but there wasn't any. They did get flu shots when they were six months old though and flu shots DO contain thimerisol. I wish I knew then what I know now (although I'm not convinced of the connection).

I do know that I took antibiotics a couple of times during my pregnancy so I'm not sure of a yeast connection. I also took drugs to stop labor many times.

I wish I knew what caused this...I really, really do.

Anonymous said...

I had considered this idea even before my autistic son was born. My older son was constantly sick and I wondered if I had perpetuated my 'weak' genes (as I have severe allergies and asthma). Would my son have survived had he been born 50 years ago? The answer is probably no, but that doesn't mean it causes autism. It just makes my son's more susceptible. I have read something that has caused me to realize that it is not the root cause. The following is a quote from Jean Genet of Byonetics about the idea that autism is a complex disease with multiple causes:
"This assertion violates a truth that history demonstrates very
clearly: All epidemics in the history of mankind have a simple
cause. An epidemic is a sudden, widespread onset of a disease or
disorder. It is a statistical improbability that 50 unrelated
factors would all simultaneously manifest themselves in 1991 without any precedent. Think bubonic plague, swine flu, smallpox, HIV, SARS. Think autism."

Autism is not just increasing in coutries with good health care.

MothersVox said...

M. was conceived 3 months after I miscarried.

Pregnancy wasn't unusual, but I was very sad--depressed actually--and not really expecting her to be born . . . As excited as I had been about the prior pregnancy, I was that skeptical about the pregnancy that resulted in M.'s birth. I sort of had this feeling of "I'll believe it when I see it." I didn't really believe she was going to be born.

On the advice of my doctor, I went back on my anti-depressant medication in the second trimester, and have often wondered if this affected M.'s neurological development. (Except that M. is an awful lot like her father, and his mom wasn't taking any antidepressant meds in France in the 1950s.;-)

M. was born by C-section . . . breech presentation and truly appalling care at the hands of NY's supposedly excellent "Midwivery Services" at St. Luke's/Roosevelt.

But she did not seem to have any delivery injuries (other than a tiny scratch on her bottom from the ob's scalpel.) Was a little jaundiced, but came home from the hospital with us . . .

Had feeding problems . . . my milk didn't come in (maybe from the C-section stress . . .).

And she had hip dysplasia (not uncommon in breech presentations), so had to wear a Pavlik harness for three months to correct the hip socket shape. That definitely altered the trajectory of her gross motor development.

Anything else? Not that I can think of . . . I think your point is interesting . . . Could these neurological differences be a feature of advanced maternal age? That is an interesting question . . .

Anonymous said...

i'm entering the conversation rather late (!) but i'll say that i had a HUGE amount of trouble conceiving but once pregnant with fluffy, everything went swimmingly: easy pregnancy, easy first birth (natural, 10 hours, slipped out after 1/2 hr pushing, pronounced 9.9 apgar, went home with me 2 days later) but he did have TERRIBLE colic and trouble with jaundice and the most significant thing that i can think of is that i received 2 shots of Rhogam early in the pg because i'm Rh negative and those shots are loaded with mercury. that's the only place fluffy could have gotten mercury, that and what was floating around my system in the breast milk he drank and drank and drank since i insisted all his vaccinations were thimerosal free.

i've had these same conversations.

Anonymous said...

I DID have a horrible delivery with Casey. In the last few weeks of my pregnancy she had dropped so low that it put my back in major stress. Unable to walk from pain my labor was induced a week early. The contractions came one on top of the other and it caused Casey to panic. The cord became wrapped around her neck, her blood pressure and heart rate dropped. Although she was delivered within 4 minutes of this event I still wonder if it was just too much for her. Also, I suffer from anxiety and took paxil for the entire pregnancy. Of course, having been told it was completely safe.

FYI, the 2005-2006 fluzone vaccine comes in four different presentations. One of which contains the preservative thimerosal. The pediatric presentations DO NOT contain thimerosal and are preservative free.

Still, I've noticed change in Casey since her 2 doses of fluzone. Alot less eye contact, blank stares and what seems to be deafness...but isn't.

Anonymous said...

Similar for us - jaundice, acid reflux, latching trouble. Apparently a lot this comes from a genetic defect in processing b12 (we did the test to confirm he had it). We give him b12 and his hearing "turned on" and in combo with yeast treatments he started doing the stairs. He went from zero words a few months ago to about 25 today. Progress...

abby said...

Way late on this one, but Hallie qualifies for all of the above: my partner had trouble conceiving; we resorted to IVF; had an okay twin pregnancy until it became a not-okay one with premature labor at around 21 or 22 weeks and presentation at 23 weeks 90% effaced and 4 cm dilated; followed by 4 months in the NICU and the loss of Hallie's twin sister; lots of medical intervention and problems thereafter. So, yeah, I think we qualify.

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Rachel said...

Wow. There are so many factors that could contribute, or might just be coincidence. My pregnancy was pretty routine, I did not have trouble conceiving, but I was working full-time while pregnant. The only really negative thing about the pregnancy was that I swelled a LOT in the last month or so. Sean was born exactly 4 weeks early, but didn't seem to have any initial preemie issues. He was readmitted four days after his birth because he developed severe jaundice. He did have a little trouble with nursing in the beginning which exacerbated the jaundice. Something I've wondered about: on his ultrasounds, they noticed a spot on his heart. We had a second ultrasound later in the pregnancy to check that out, but it didn't appear to be anything. I've wondered if any other children with autism might have had the same anomaly.