Does Induced Labor Increase the Risk of Autism?

A potentially disturbing study reveals that children who have been born by induced or augmented labor have about a 35% greater likelihood of developing Autism.  The findings were reported after a review of over 600,000 medical and corresponding school records.  The study does not prove cause and effect but it does highlight a potentially serious, and deeply unappreciated side effect of a birthing practice that has become increasingly more common over the years.   Here is a brief summary of the study…

In this study, the researchers looked at records of all births in North Carolina over an eight-year period and matched 625,042 births with corresponding public school records, which indicated whether children were diagnosed with autism.

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.

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. 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.

Read here for more.

I agree that this is not necessarily a cause for panic or the wholesale abandonment of induced or augmented labor, but in an age where autism is being diagnosed at what is, arguably, epidemic levels, any information that could help parents decrease either the personal or social risk of autism is welcome information.

For the record, I have always recommended against induced and augmented labor except in cases where they are determined to be absolutely medically necessary.  For most induced or augmented deliveries, this is not the case.  We need to trust our bodies–not blindly, but in an informed and intelligent way–to do what God designed them to do.  If you are pregnant, please discuss this information and your concerns with your OB/GYN.   If your OB/GYN identifies serious, medical reasons why induction or augmentation might be necessary, by all means, be open to this feedback. But, if not, my position has always been “better safe than sorry.”  This latest information would appear to bear this motto out.

Print Friendly

About Dr. Greg

Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems. Together with his wife, Lisa, he hosts More2Life Radio. He is the author of over a dozen books integrating psychological insights with our Catholic faith. For more info about books, tele-counseling and other resources, visit www.CatholicCounselors.com.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    As an autistic adult, I don’t understand the “risk”.

    I’d rather be an unhappy child than not exist!

    • silicasandra

      In most cases where labor is induced, the choice is not between “dead child” and “alive child.” It’s usually more about controlling the labor, either for the physician or the parents. With incorrect dating (using LMP as the start date rather than ovulation date, which is hard to know if a woman doesn’t chart her fertility) means that some babies are feared to be post-dates even if they aren’t. And even though the normal range for delivery is 37-42 weeks, many, many obstetric professionals start getting antsy as soon as 38 weeks, even when it’s much, much better for baby to wait in most cases. There is a lot of brain development that goes on in those final weeks of pregnancy.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X