My friend went about two weeks past her expected delivery date and was just about to have labor induced when her water broke. She delivered just fine and was, like many mothers, thankful to get the whole uncomfortable experience over with. Many women today still have their labor induced or augmented for many reasons, including the prevention of still birth, but recently researchers have found a possible correlation between induced and augmented labor and autism.

A retrospective analysis conducted by researchers at Duke Medicine and the University of Michigan hasn’t proved that inducing or augmenting labor causes autism, but enough evidence was found to warrant more investigation into the relationship between children born with autism and mothers who needed to induce or augment labor.

During the study, researcher looked into all the birth records in North Carolina in an eight-year period and then cross referenced them to 625,042 local school records to see how many children were later diagnosed with ASD. Lead author Dr. Simon G. Gregory, associate professor of medicine and medical genetics at Duke, says that "Inducing or augmenting labor has been previously suggested as a contributing factor to autism development. However, these studies produced conflicting results and consisted of a relatively small number of subjects. Our study is by far the largest one of its kind to look at the association between autism and induction or augmentation."

By cross referencing the records, it was found that 1.3% of male children born in North Carolina during the eight years that were studied were diagnosed with ASD, and 0.4% of female children were diagnosed as well. Among the children diagnosed, a high percentage had mothers that had induced or augmented labor, and out of all the children in the study, those with mothers who had induced or augmented labor were more likely to have children with ASD.

The study showed that males were more likely to be affected than females, and overall there was a 35% higher chance of children developing autism with induced or augmented labor than children were born with during untreated labor. It was also found that male children were affected by induced labor alone, or augmented labor alone, and females were only affected by augmented labor alone. The reasons for the differences are currently under investigation.

During the study, Gregory says that the chance of being born with ASD is also increased with other factors known to predispose children to autism, such as the mother being older, or the baby being born before 34 weeks.

Source: Duke Medicine (2013, August 12). Inducing and augmenting labor may be associated with increased risk of autism. ScienceDaily.