Labor Induction and Autism Risk

Earlier this month, JAMA Pediatrics published the findings from a study looking at the relationship between labor induction and cases of autism.  After looking at 625,042 live births (1990-1998) and later school records (1997-2007), researchers from the Duke University Medical Center found that those children who had labor induced and augmented had increased risk for autism.  The strongest risks were in boys whose mothers had labor both induced and accelerated. They were 35 percent more likely to have autism.  Among girls, autism was not tied to labor induction but rather was only more common in those born after labor was accelerated; they were 18 percent more likely to have the developmental disorder than girls whose mothers had neither treatment.

In the Washington Post, Simon Gregory, lead author and an associate professor of medicine and medical genetics at Duke University, emphasized, “We haven’t found a connection for cause and effect. One of the things we need to look at is why they were being induced in the first place.”  And with government data suggesting that 1 in 5 U.S. women have labor induced — twice as many as in 1990—and with 1 in 88 children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, we have to ask questions of the potential risks of induction and acceleration procedures when the health of the mother and child are not at risk.  A doula greatly assists expectant parents in weighing the risks of induction in light of their specific circumstances.  Overall Pitocin (most common drug used for labor acceleration) use decreases by 31% when a doula is supporting a laboring couple.

For further reading, go to JAMA Pediatrics: