J Autism Dev Disord. 2023 Nov 15. doi: 10.1007/s10803-023-06189-y. Online ahead of print.
PURPOSE: To explore the recalled experience of pregnancy and motherhood in women diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) without intellectual disabilities, focusing on sensory perceptions and mood.
METHODS: We retrospectively evaluated, through an ad-hoc structured interview, the sensory sensitivity during the pre-partum, the peri-partum, and the post-partum of thirty-three mothers with ASD and thirty-two neurotypical mothers. Participants also underwent a psychometric assessment about autistic traits, general sensory sensitivity, and post-partum depressive symptomatology.
RESULTS: Mothers with ASD recalled a higher sensitivity than the comparison group across the three time-points; however, during the peri-partum their recalled hypersensitivity decreases, and in the post-partum it returned as high as before childbirth. The difference in the length of recall between groups did not statistically influence our results. Higher levels of autistic traits correlated with higher depressive post-partum symptomatology.
CONCLUSIONS: Mothers with ASD seem to recall their experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and post-partum period differently from neurotypical mothers, particularly in terms of hypersensitivity. The correlation with depressive symptoms and the potential role of oxytocin and of long-term memory (encoding and recollection) are discussed. Further exploring these aspects might give fundamental hints to provide tailored support to mothers with ASD during pregnancy and motherhood.