Eliminating Confusion Over Links Between Induced Labor and AutismPosted October 6, 2016 by Stacy Bolzenius
Over time, investigations into the causes of autism spectrum disorder have brought some alarming correlations to light. Researchers studying the incidence of the neurological condition noticed a higher number of cases diagnosed in children of mothers who had induced labor to deliver their babies. The results caused a ripple of alarm in the medical obstetrics community who note that inducing labor has a number of legitimate uses in protecting women’s health and keeping babies safe during the birth process. The questions raised caused further investigation of the connection between induced labor and diagnoses of ASD in children.
The 2013 Study That Caused Alarm
In 2013, a Duke University study was published in the medical publication “JAMA Pediatrics” that found a link between women who had received compounds that induced labor and an increased incidence of children later diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The study covered the records of 625,000 babies born in North Carolina between the years 1990 and 1998. The increased risk appeared to affect boys more than girls, with a 35 percent increase in diagnosed ASD. The finding caused a stir of alarm in obstetric circles, where the use of Pitocin to increase contractions has been used for decades. The outcome? Questioning the safety of induction has the potential to cause pregnant women to hesitate before agreeing to procedures that may be medically necessary to ensure their own health and that of their babies when labor is imminent.
Additional Studies Found No Link Between Induced Labor and Autism
After the original study, a number of other studies followed up on the work of the Duke researchers. Scientists at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health utilized three separate studies from Sweden that provided additional data on a large number of births. The study found no correlation between the use of induced labor and autism when controlled for other factors in the births. The University of Utah followed up with another study in 2015 that found the induction of labor alone was not responsible for the increase in cases of autism spectrum disorder. These additional studies have helped to reassure women undergoing induction that they are not endangering their babies during the process.
Inducing Labor Still A Valuable Option
In some cases, inducing labor can save lives. Using Pitocin to induce labor is generally used by OB/GYN physicians in a number of cases, such as:
- When pregnant women are more than two weeks past their due date
- When there is insufficient amniotic fluid in the uterus
- When the water has broken, but no contractions begin
- When placental separation has occurred
- When an infection in the uterus occurs
- When the fetus ceases to grow at the expected rate
- When other medical conditions arise in the mother that could endanger her or the baby, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or another problem
Currently, medical experts are reassuring the public about the safety of induced labor to deliver healthy babies. No doubt, further research will help to clarify the data on the issue of ASD. Until then, make sure that you discuss the latest research with your patients and let them know that induction is not directly linked to the increased risk for autism.
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