Drug induced labour could be linked to an Autism diagnosis

pregnantNew research published by the  JAMA Pediatric network Journal has suggested a link between drug induced labours and Autism.

One in 88 children in the US is currently diagnosed as having an ASD. The study aimed to look at any external factor that could contribute towards the startling rise in the past two decades of Autism diagnosis.

The research, conducted over 8 years, and including 625,000 children examined if Autism was more prevalent in babies born as a result of chemical hormonal induction. The results show a small increase in those diagnosed with Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and a marked difference between the sexes, as autism was predominantly diagnosed  in boys.

Autism is thought to be the result of genetic, or family risk and conditions in the womb and early life while the child is developing and inhibits, or exploits electrical activity to the developing brain.

The study showed that 13 out of every 1000 boys born from natural labours was diagnosed with Autism, compared to four  females born. When the labour was drug induced this number jumped to almost 30 in every thousand. Overall, 5,648 children developed autism – three times as many boys as girls. Among autistic boys, almost one-third of the mothers had labour started or hastened, versus almost 29 per cent of the boys without autism.

Prof Simon Gregory, of Duke University, speaking to the BBC said:

“We don’t want mothers to say, ‘Under no circumstances do I want to be induced because I don’t want a kid with autism’. That would be plain wrong.

“We’ve found an association and more research is needed. This allows us to focus on the factors around birth that may affect autism and how it develops.”

Induction is generally only used as a medical ‘last resort’, when the child or mother is in danger, especially when a pregnancy has gestated further than 40 weeks.

Michael Heard, of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spokesperson, said:

“We induce to improve outcomes. You reduce the chance of losing the baby and the chance of mum and baby getting unwell.

“This is a preliminary statistical overview, with no clear reasoning why the two things should be linked.

“Induction is very common and is offered for good medical reasons and is extremely safe. But like most medical processes there is a small risk associated.

“This is another thing to consider in a long-term study, but not something I’d consider in my practice.”

Carol Povey, of the National Autistic Society, said:

“Autism is a complex condition and is thought to be the result of many different underlying physical and genetic factors. Its exact causes are still being investigated.

“The scientists who conducted this study acknowledge that further research is required before any hard and fast conclusions can be drawn.

“It’s therefore important that people do not jump to conclusions about this study and its implications.”

More research is to be undertaken to find which specific factors used during induction contribute specifically to the rise in Autism rates, especially within male births.