Autism Risk Factors From Induced Or Augmented Labor
August 13, 2013

Induced, Augmented Childbirth May Be Linked To Increased Risk Of Autism

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Pregnant women who have labor induced or augmented may have an increased risk of bearing children who are autistic, according to the findings of a large retrospective analysis appearing in the August 12 edition of the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Researchers from Duke Medicine and the University of Michigan reviewed North Carolina state birth and educational records. They performed an epidemiological analysis of over 625,000 live births associated with school records, including 5,500 children with a documented exceptionality designation for autism.

The authors were attempting to determine whether induced births, augmented births, or both are associated with increased odds of autism. They found that stimulating uterine contractions prior to the onset of spontaneous labor and increasing the strength, duration, or frequency of uterine contractions with spontaneous onset of labor appeared to be associated with increased odds of an autism diagnosis in childhood.

“Inducing or augmenting labor has been previously suggested as a contributing factor to autism development,” said Simon G. Gregory, PhD, lead author of the study and an associate professor of medicine and medical genetics at Duke. “However, these studies produced conflicting results and consisted of a relatively small number of subjects. Our study is by far the largest one of its kind to look at the association between autism and induction or augmentation.”

Gregory and his colleagues note that their study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between the induced/augmented childbirth and autism. However, they note that their findings emphasize the need for additional research into the matter, especially in light of the increasing use of labor induction and augmentation in recent years for women with health conditions that pose a risk to them and their unborn children.

“Approximately 1.3 percent of male children and 0.4 percent of female children had autism diagnoses. In both male and female children, the percentage of mothers who had induced or augmented labor was higher among children with autism compared with those who did not have autism,” Duke University said in a statement. “The findings suggest that among male children, labor that was both induced and augmented was associated with a 35 percent higher risk of autism, compared with labor that received neither treatment.”

“This estimated increase in risk accounted for established maternal and pregnancy-related risk factors, such as maternal age and pregnancy complications,” they added. “While induced labor alone and augmented labor alone were each associated with increased risk among male children, only augmentation was associated with increased risk among female children. The reason for the difference in findings between male and female children requires further investigation.”