Induced Labor Linked to Higher Autism Risk

The headline above is from an article on Medpage Today on August 12, 2013. The article is based on the results of a study published on the same day in JAMA Pediatrics which shows an association between induced labor and autism. The Medpage article, written by Charles Bankhead, starts off with an ominous statement, “The odds of autism increased significantly in children whose mothers gave birth with induced or augmented labor, a study of more than 600,000 births showed.”

The study looked at 625,000 babies born in North Carolina over an eight-year period and were matched with the children’s corresponding public school records which contained the diagnoses of autism. An article on August 13, 2013, in Time magazine’s online Family & Health section clearly stated the results of this study by reporting, “For children who were born after induced labor, the risk of autism was 13% higher compared with that of children born to mothers who were not induced; speeding up labor was associated with a 16% higher risk of autism, while both induction and augmentation were linked to a 23% greater risk of autism in children.”

In the Time article, Michael Rosanoff, associate director of Autism Speaks, who was not affiliated with the study, added his concerns, “I think we’re at a point in autism research where we are really looking to uncover any possible risk factor. What this tells us is that the period around pregnancy is a very important stage in the development of a child. It seems to be a critical period for exposure to potential risk factors that might increase risk for autism. We are seeing that again in this study.” Rosanoff continued, “It’s not a huge risk, but the fact that so many women may be exposed to this risk factor is what’s important and what warrants additional research into the actual mechanisms behind this association.”

In the study results the authors stated, “Compared with children born to mothers who received neither labor induction nor augmentation, children born to mothers who were induced and augmented, induced only, or augmented only experienced increased odds of autism after controlling for potential confounders related to socioeconomic status, maternal health, pregnancy-related events and conditions, and birth year.” They concluded, “Our work suggests that induction/augmentation during childbirth is associated with increased odds of autism diagnosis in childhood.”

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