home
RSS
Autism linked to induced or augmented labor, study says
August 12th, 2013
04:01 PM ET

Autism linked to induced or augmented labor, study says

As scientists struggle to understand the causes of autism, a potential new pattern has emerged: The condition is associated with induced or augmented labor, according to a new study.

Induction means stimulating contractions before spontaneous labor begins. Augmentation means helping contractions become stronger, longer or more frequent. Both of these methods of expediting deliveries have helped mothers who have health conditions that could be detrimental to them or their child.

The researchers did not prove that these treatments cause autism. Women should not read the new study, which is published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, and decide against expediting labor on that basis, said Simon Gregory, researcher at Duke University Medical Center and lead author of the study.

"It’s a decision between them and their healthcare provider," Gregory said, but the data do not "outweigh the risks that would come with just not wanting to be induced or augmented at all, because then you’re the placing the mother and the infant’s life at risk."

Background

Autism spectrum disorders are developmental conditions characterized by social, communication and behavioral difficulties.

About 1 in 88 children has a diagnosed autism spectrum disorder, according to the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although there is evidence that genetics plays a role, environmental factors may also be at play in altering normal development. A recent study of twins found that susceptibility to autism can increase in prenatal and early postnatal environments.

Methods

The study looked at more than 625,000 records of children's birth and education from North Carolina. Researchers obtained information on the demographics of both parents, the mother's medical history age at pregnancy, and infant health.

Although this is a large sample size, study authors could not control for every variable that might have influenced the results. They did not have information about paternal age, for example, or what medications the mothers were taking. Researchers also did not obtain data about where on the autism spectrum the children fall in this study.

Results

Researchers found a strong link between treatments to expedite labor and males who had autism; for females, less so.

Male infants born in deliveries in which labor was both induced and augmented were 35% more likely to have autism than those whose mother did not have either of these treatments. For induction alone, risk was elevated 18%. For augmentation alone, risk went up 15%.

The risk to females was not significantly elevated when labor was both induced and augmented, or induced alone. The likelihood of autism went up with augmentation alone, 21%.

"The risk is modest but significant, particularly considering that this is a potential risk factor many pregnant women may be exposed to during labor," according to a statement from Autism Speaks, a leading autism science and advocacy organization.

The gender gap seen in the study is intriguing to scientists, Gregory said, because autism is more common in males in general - in fact, nearly five times as many boys than girls have autism spectrum disorders.

What it means, however, is unclear.

Researchers also found support for other autism risk factors that previous studies have established. Older maternal age raised the risk 30%, being first born increased risk 21%, and having a mother with gestational diabetes upped the risk by 24%.

They did not find any increased risk for children born in Cesarean sections compared to vaginal births.

Implications 

This data does not demonstrate that induced or augmented labor causes autism. It only shows an association; scientists do not yet know what explains the connection.

Gregory said there could be a number of underlying factors that this study did not directly address, including the health of the mother, drugs used to induce or augment birth, fetal stress, or other medications that the mother is taking. The act of inducing or augmenting may be to blame, but alternatively the medical and obstetric conditions around those treatments could have something to do with it, or even some other events that commonly occur to women whose labor is expedited. At this stage, no one knows.

But researchers say the underlying mechanism is worth looking into, given that expedited labor isn't rare. About 23% of births in the United States in 2008 were induced, and 17% were augmented in 2002, Gregory said.

"This is the largest study to date demonstrating an association between induced or augmented childbirth and autism, and the next step is for research to better understand the possible mechanisms behind this relationship," according to a statement from Autism Speaks.

Gregory and colleagues want to go back to these medical records and dig deeper, but also study other mothers and children going forward to see if they can figure out why they're at increased risk.

More: Prenatal exposure to pollution raises risk of autism in kids

CNN's John Bonifield contributed to this report 


soundoff (224 Responses)
  1. frolep rotrem

    Hi there, You have done an incredible job. I will definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they'll be benefited from this site.

    http://www.froleprotrem.com/

    February 17, 2021 at 21:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. 10vina

    Does your website have a contact page? I'm having trouble locating it but, I'd like to send you an e-mail. I've got some suggestions for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.

    https://10vina.com

    February 21, 2021 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. zortilo nrel

    You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren't afraid to mention how they believe. Always go after your heart.

    http://www.zortilonrel.com/

    February 24, 2021 at 05:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. ClarkTauts

    t6z9v quz6h 7e70

    March 2, 2021 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3

Leave a Reply to zortilonrel


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.