Posted: Aug 19, 2013 8:00 AM
 
Researchers have discovered a definite correlation between labor induction and the occurrence of autism. Do these results enable us to prevent autism? What does this information mean to expectant mothers?

Cloth diapers or disposables? Is a little caffeine OK? Should we vaccinate? What about circumcision? As if pregnant women need one more decision to worry about, a new study has linked labor induction to autism. The study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, is certainly not conclusive and does not indicate the cause of autism, but is stirring concern all over the internet.

So what does it mean?

A mother whose labor is induced and augmented has a 23 percent higher chance of her baby later being diagnosed with autism.

Researchers from Duke University and the University of Michigan studied the birth records of more than 625,000 babies born in North Carolina over a span of eight years, and then compared that data to school records to find which of the children were diagnosed with autism. The boys whose births had been induced, using drugs such as Pitocin to stimulate uterine contractions, were 35 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism, while for the baby girls the correlation was not as pronounced. Overall, a mother whose labor is induced and augmented has a 23 percent higher chance of her baby later being diagnosed with autism.

Should you be concerned?

Though this study may bring us a step closer to finding the cause of autism, there are many factors in these births which the researchers did not study. If labor was induced because the pregnancy was at risk, then a common risk factor could be the real reason behind the link. The researchers found an association between autism and labor induction, but that does not mean induction itself causes autism. There is likely some other variable which causes autism and also necessitates induction and augmentation. The rising autism rate has researchers scrambling to find a cause, and every new finding brings us closer to an answer — but we’re not there yet.

What if your doctor suggests induction?

Due dates are not exact — only estimates. Healthy pregnancy length can vary by up to five weeks, so there’s no need to worry if your due date comes and goes without fanfare.

The experts say these findings are not conclusive enough to change current medical practices, but will this new data cause expectant moms to question the need for induction? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 23 percent of pregnant women underwent induction in 2010. So, nearly one in four pregnant women will be asking the question: to induce or to wait? With all the other huge questions parenthood brings about, the answer to this one is still between you and your doctor or midwife. You may want to re-think inducing if there’s no real medical risk associated with waiting until (gasp!) even 42 weeks. Due dates are not exact — only estimates. Healthy pregnancy length can vary by up to five weeks, so there’s no need to worry if your due date comes and goes without fanfare. But of course, if your doctor is concerned, take heed. She is fully invested in delivering your baby healthy and thriving, so if she recommends induction, you probably want to take her advice.

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