Background: A recent California study reported increased risk of autistic disorder in children conceived within a year after the birth of a sibling.
Methods: We assessed the association between interpregnancy interval and risk of autistic disorder using nationwide registry data on pairs of singleton full siblings born in Norway. We defined interpregnancy interval as the time from birth of the first-born child to conception of the second-born child in a sibship. The outcome of interest was autistic disorder in the second-born child. Analyses were restricted to sibships in which the second-born child was born in 1990–2004. Odds ratios (ORs) were estimated by fitting ordinary logistic models and logistic generalized additive models.
Results: The study sample included 223,476 singleton full-sibling pairs. In sibships with interpregnancy intervals <9 months, 0.25% of the second-born children had autistic disorder, compared with 0.13% in the reference category (≥36 months). For interpregnancy intervals shorter than 9 months, the adjusted OR of autistic disorder in the second-born child was 2.18 (95% confidence interval 1.42–3.26). The risk of autistic disorder in the second-born child was also increased for interpregnancy intervals of 9–11 months in the adjusted analysis (OR = 1.71 [95% CI = 1.07–2.64]).
Conclusions: Consistent with a previous report from California, interpregnancy intervals shorter than 1 year were associated with increased risk of autistic disorder in the second-born child. A possible explanation is depletion of micronutrients in mothers with closely spaced pregnancies.