A study just released in the journal JAMA Pediatrics revealed that pregnant women who have their labor “induced or augmented” have an increased risk of delivering a child who will develop autism.
The retrospective study out of Duke University and the University of Michigan (both very well respected medical schools), showed that the percentage of mothers who had their labor either induced or augmented was higher for children who were later found to have “a designation for autism” within the school systems in North Carolina. The rates of autism were highest for mother’s who had their labors both induced and augmented. The study found that in this case there was a 23% greater risk of bearing a child who would later be diagnosed with autism than with those who had neither induction or augmentation. This association was also higher in boys.
So, what does this all mean?
This does not mean that there should never be an induction or augmentation to a woman’s labor. There will continue to be cases in which it is appropriate to induce a woman’s labor when necessary for the health of the mother or her unborn child. One example being when an induction may be appropriate is when a mother’s blood pressure is becoming problematic and puts her and the baby at risk.
Augmented labor is sometimes necessary when a mother’s membranes have ruptured and the baby needs to be delivered to prevent infection Each case needs to be looked at individually by the doctor and discussed with the patient, as to risk and benefit.
But, “elective” inductions because “the weekend is approaching”, or the “doctor is leaving town” or because the mother is “tired of being pregnant”, (while previously discouraged) may now be looked at with an eye toward this study. In many cases “elective” inductions often lead to c-section deliveries as well. Other studies have shown that c-sections in the United Sates have been on the rise and that there are more complications in the newborn period for babies born via c-section. The JAMA study did not look at the method of delivery.
This study is interesting and may be yet one small part of the puzzle of autism. More research to come, so I will keep you posted!