The frequencies of both induced and augmented labor have increased between 2002 and 2010. In both induced labor artificially stimulated labor and augmented labor increasing the strength, duration or frequency of contractions the woman is administered Pitocin to assist with the birth. A new study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, found that women whose labors are induced or augmented may be at greater risk of delivering a child with autism, especially if that child is a male. However, no causal relationship could be proven from this observational study.
Researchers from Duke University and the University of Michigan looked at records detailing all live births in North Carolina between 1990 and 1998. By matching these records with school data detailing autism diagnoses, they ended up with data for about 625,000 children who had autism whose mothers had been either induced, augmented or a combination. They found that mothers who were both induced and augmented were at a 23 percent higher risk for delivering a child who would eventually be diagnosed with autism, as compared to mothers who did not have either procedure. Male children whose mothers were both induced and augmented were at a 35 percent greater risk of being diagnosed with autism.
Experts from Autism Speaks say more research is needed to establish whether the induction and/or augmentation procedures themselves increase the risk for autism, or whether the underlying conditions that necessitate the procedures among other genetic and environmental factors increase the risk.
And lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine and medical genetics at Duke, Dr. Simon G. Gregory, says Women should speak to a health-care professional about the risks and benefits associated with induction and augmentation.
ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross says women should definitely talk to their doctors about induction and augmentation well before going into labor, preferably in the company of their spouse or partner. He adds, While I still strongly advise women to have this conversation early in pregnancy, as of now, lacking any biological hypothesis linking augmentation or induction to autism, I would not use this study to categorically advise women to avoid such interventions.