Autism/Induction Link?

birth center baby in towelOne in 88 children in the United States is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  A new study has found a possible link between Autism Spectrum Disorder and drugs that are commonly used to induce labor.

In the latest issue of JAMA Pediatrics, researchers report their analysis of more than 600,000 labors and births, some naturally-occuring, others induced, others augmented.  They found that “compared with children born to mothers who received neither labor induction nor augmentation, children born to mothers who were induced and augmented, induced only, or augmented only, children experienced increased odds of autism after controlling for potential confounders related to socioeconomic status, maternal health, pregnancy-related events and conditions, and birth year. The observed associations between labor induction/augmentation were particularly pronounced in male children.”

Researchers concluded by saying that “our work suggests that induction/augmentation during childbirth is associated with increased odds of autism diagnosis in childhood. While these results are interesting, further investigation is needed to differentiate among potential explanations of the association including underlying pregnancy conditions requiring the eventual need to induce/augment, the events of labor and delivery associated with induction/augmentation, and the specific treatments and dosing used to induce/augment labor (eg, exogenous oxytocin and prostaglandins).”

It’s a good reminder that drugs of any kind can have unintended — and unwanted — consequences, either at the time of use or down the road.  Medications are designed to be used when a medical condition is present and when the benefits outweigh the risks.  This study provides solid food for thought for physicians, midwives, and pregnant women, to carefully consider the risks when deciding whether to induce labor simply for convenience and not for a medical condition.