A research collaboration between Intermountain Healthcare, the University of Utah’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, and the University of Utah’s Psychiatry Department found that induced or augmented labor does not result in an increased risk of children developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Autism spectrum disorder has increased in frequency over the last several decades, affecting one in 68 children in the U.S. With the observed increase, researchers have been working to identify potential risk factors. Previous research suggests that environmental factors during pregnancy and childbirth may increase the risk of ASD diagnosis in childhood. Needless to say the finding in this study are very important and anticipated by families and doctors.
One environmental factor of interest is induction and/or augmentation of labor. Labor is induced (started) or augmented (helped along) for many reasons, including medical indications and patient preference. Prior research had suggested a potential link between induction or augmentation of labor and ASD.
In some cases, labor has to be "induced," which is a process of stimulating labor to begin. The reasons for induction vary, but generally revolve around mother and baby safety. Labor induction is not done before 39 weeks of pregnancy unless there is a serious problem. Some common reasons for induction include the following:
- The mother and/or fetus are at risk
- The pregnancy has continued too far past the due date
- The mother has preeclampsia, eclampsia, or chronic high blood pressure
- Diagnosis of poor growth of the fetus
“Children exposed to labor induction or augmentation did not have an increased likelihood of ASD after adjusting for important factors such as socioeconomic status, maternal health, pregnancy-related events and conditions, gender, and year of birth,” says Michael Varner, MD, an investigator for the study.
The study, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Induced/Augmented Labor: Epidemiologic Analysis of a Utah Cohort, evaluated the association of ASD in a large group of Utah births that occurred between 1998 and 2006. Using data from birth certificates and from a registry of autism cases in Utah (Utah Registry of Autism and Developmental Disabilities), the researchers compared 2,547 children with ASD to 166,283 children without ASD.
Researchers will present the study findings at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting™, in San Diego, on February 5th, 2015.