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Induced Labor Linked to Autism Risk

Aug. 20, 2013|573 views
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In recent years, several factors have been identified that may be linked to an increased risk of having a baby with autism. Living in an area with heavy air pollution during pregnancy is one such risk. Undergoing induced labor may be another.

 Researchers at Duke Medicine and the University of Michigan looked at records of past births for associations between the method of birth and the risk that a child would later be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. A possible link had been proposed previously, but the new study is the largest of its kind to examine the issue.

 More than 600,000 birth records were reviewed. For male children, the risk of being diagnosed with autism was 35% higher if labor was both induced and augmented. Inducing labor involves using prostaglandins, or synthetic oxytocin, to stimulate contractions before labor occurs spontaneously. Augmentation refers to procedures used to boost the strength, frequency or length of contractions. It usually involves intravenous administration of Pitocin, the synthetic form of oxytocin, a hormone that is produced naturally during labor.

 The scientists were quick to point out that the findings do not amount to proof that induced/augmented labor CAUSES autism, merely that there seems to be an association between the two. Induction and augmentation are useful tools that have “remarkably decreased the risk of stillbirth,” experts note. The potential link might have more to do with underlying conditions during pregnancy, which lead to the need for induction in the first place. At the very least, the finding might give doctors pause before inducing labor simply for the sake of convenience. 


Gregory SG, Anthopolos R, Osgood CE, Grotegut CA, Miranda M. Association of Autism With Induced or Augmented Childbirth in North Carolina Birth Record (1990-1998) and Education Research (1997-2007) Databases. JAMA Pediatr. 2013;():-. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.2904.


Tags:  autism, pregnancy, health tips