Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have become more prevalent, with 1 in 88 children now being diagnosed, and scientists and parents want to know what may be causing the problem. Environmental factors’ impact on risk has been of significant interest. A study recently published in JAMA Pediatrics looks at the potential effect of induced labor on autism risk.
Researchers at Duke University used the North Carolina Detailed Birth Records and Education Research databases to perform an epidemiological analysis with multivariable logistic regression modeling. In the study, 625,042 live births were linked with school records. More than 5500 of the children studied were documented as having an exceptionality designation of ASD.
Children who were born through induced and augmented delivery, induced-only delivery, or augmented-only delivery had an increased chance of being diagnosed with ASD. Researchers also found that the association between induced or augmented delivery was more pronounced in boys than in girls. Any potential influences related to socioeconomic status, pregnancy-related events and conditions, birth year, and maternal health were controlled for.
The study’s authors did stress that while the results of their research were highly interesting, more study is needed before establishing a correlation between ASD and induced/augmented delivery.
In response to the study, Contemporary OB/GYN board member Joshua A Copel, MD said, “there are many reasons why women may need induction or augmentation of labor. There is also a real lack of reliable information on the etiology (or etiologies) of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). When interpreting studies like this it is critical to keep in mind that associations are not the same as cause and effect. For example, there might be an indication for augmentation of labor that is actually the causative factor for ASD.
“Without data to evaluate comorbidities and other associations, and in the continued absence of a clear cause of ASD, it would be unfortunate if women who need labor induction, perhaps because of hypertension or being far past their due dates, were to risk other complications in a misguided effort to reduce the risk of ASD.”
To get weekly advice for today's Ob/Gyn, subscribe to the Contemporary Ob/Gyn Special Delivery.