Pediatrics Articles

The Placenta Predicts Risk of Autism

by Dr. Randy


A recent study has confirmed that certain tissue changes in the placenta can actually predict the risk of autism in children. Researchers examined slides of placental tissue and looked for the presence of a type of folding called a trophoblast inclusion. They found that babies with a sibling who had been diagnosed with autism had more of these folds in their placentas than babies without an autistic sibling.

This study confirmed a previous study that showed children who later developed autism also had placentas with this characteristic at birth.

This is potentially a tool to identify children at greater risk for developing autism. Simply count the number of these inclusions in a tissue sample from the placenta. Those babies with four or more inclusions are at high risk of developing autism. None of those in the control group in these studies had these inclusions in their placentas.

A screening tool like this could allow holistic practitioners to focus their attention on these at risk babies and develop a nutritional program to treat autism before it manifests as symptoms. Several studies have also shown that early behavioral intervention results in greater gains for children with autism. Currently children with autism are seldom identified before 18 months of age and usually not until 2 or 3 years old. If we know that children at birth have a higher risk of developing autism, then we could intervene sooner.


Walker CK, Anderson KW, et al. Trophoblast inclusions are significantly increased in the placentas of children in families at risk for autism. Biological Psychiatry. 2013 April.

Anderson GM, Jacobs-Stannard A, Chawarska K, Volkmar FR, Kliman HJ. Placental trophoblast inclusions in autism spectrum disorder. Biological Psychiatry. 2007 Feb 15;61(4):487-91. Epub 2006 Jun 23.