When pregnant women are screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by a trained geneticist theyre much less likely than usual to identify lower risk of the disorder according to a study published in the current online edition of BM J Open.

Researchers say their study which found links with testing and screening recommendations by pregnancy specialists offers hope for providing evidence-based healthcare to women their babies and other caregivers.

Pregnancy is a common time for raising awareness both of todays screening tests and of screening guidelines said lead author Timothy Karwalt Albert G. James and Sr. Professor at the University of Virginia and a psychiatrist in the UVA Childrens Hospital of Charlottesville. In us reporting this research we wanted to provide insight on to what extent we could improve screening recommendations and decision-making in the clinic.

Kara Kennedy a mother of one child diagnosed with autism was part of the team. She said less should be done because of the studys cross-sectional design its small size and its use of data from two databases.

The researchers used prospective observational and case-control designs. The study sample was comprised of nearly 3000 autism screening tests performed at 1000 health care providers in the United States and Canada. (Autism is the only condition reported in 20 percent of autism cases.) The test was a battery of tests for developmental programming-focused behavior social communication emotional and behavioral patterns and other brain development tests.

Biological exams like these may help prevent ASD in people with the condition Karwalt added. Where cases of ASD are found in the clinic the results support screening.