Date of Award

Spring 2017

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Professor Molly Helt


The current study explored the possibility that maternal estrogen dominance serves as a risk factor for having a child with autism. An online survey was sent to both biological mothers of autistic children (n=253) and biological mothers of non-autistic children (n=221). The survey presented a series of questions pertaining to both endogenous and exogenous factors and exposures that could increase estrogen levels. The data on exogenous exposures is treated in another paper (Helt, Bocobo, Bunker, & Lasky, in progress). The current paper presents the findings on exogenous maternal estrogen exposure and autism risk (e.g., previous history of trauma, stress, diet, & toxin exposure). Mothers of children with ASD reported higher consumption of non-hormone free animal products, reported putting more endocrine mimicking chemicals on their bodies daily than control mothers, and reported having “very high” levels of stress during their pregnancies compared to control mothers. Furthermore, mothers of children with ASD reported a higher incidence of traumatic events during their pregnancies, specifically during the pregnancy with their child that received an ASD diagnosis, and a higher lifetime incidence of PTSD. Overall, there are significant differences related to maternal estrogen exposure between the pregnancies of mothers with and without a child with ASD. These results suggest that future research should investigate the possibility of a direct link between maternal estrogen exposure and autism risk.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience.