A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Winter, 2020 | Number 1, Volume 34

Postpartum depression common in moms with ASD

Mothers with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are more likely than other mothers to experience postpartum depression, according to a new study by Alexa Pohl and colleagues. 

In the study, 355 mothers with ASD and 132 mothers without ASD completed an anonymous online survey. All of the mothers had at least one child with ASD, to ensure that differences in results could be attributed to a mother being autistic, rather than having an autistic child. 

Pohl and her team found that 60% of mothers with ASD reported that they had experienced postnatal depression, compared to only 12% of women in the general population. In addition, the researchers say, “[Mothers with ASD] reported greater difficulties in areas such as multi-tasking, coping with domestic responsibilities, and creating social opportunities for their child. They were also more likely to report feeling misunderstood by professionals, and reported greater anxiety, higher rates of selective mutism, and not knowing which details were appropriate to share with professionals. They were also more likely to find motherhood an isolating experience, to worry about others judging their parenting, or to feel unable to turn to others for support in parenting.” 

Study coauthor Simon Baron-Cohen comments, “This worryingly high number of autistic mothers who experience postnatal depression means we are failing them and their infants at a critical point in their lives. We now need more research into why the rates are so much higher, whether they are seeking help and not getting it, or if they are not seeking help and for what reasons.” 

Despite the challenges faced by mothers with ASD, the women reported that they were able to act in the best interest of their child, putting their child’s needs first and seeking opportunities to boost their child’s self-confidence. In addition, Pohl notes, “an overwhelming majority of autistic mothers reported that parenting overall was a rewarding experience.” 


“A comparative study of autistic and nonautistic women’s experience of motherhood,” A. L. Pohl, S. K. Crockford, M. Blakemore, C. Allison, and S. Baron-Cohen, Molecular Autism, January 2020 (free online). Address: S. K. Crockford, Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, Cambridge University, Douglas House, 18b Trumpington Road, Cambridge, CB2 8AH, UK, [email protected]


“Higher rates of postnatal depression among moms with autism,” Traci Pederson, psychcentral. com, January 14, 2020.