Researchers from Duke University have recently published a study that suggests that autism could be linked to labor induction or augmentation. The findings state that children born to mothers who induce their labor have a 13 percent higher risk of autism, and those who augment already existing contractions have a 16 percent increased chance. Male children are more likely to be affected, and boys born to mothers who undergo both induction and augmentation have a 35 percent higher chance of becoming autistic.

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The Duke study uses the records from schools and birth databases from over 625,000 children in North Carolina born between 1990 and 1998. Of those children, 5,500 have been classified as autistic. According to Live Science, induced labor occurs when a doctor introduces certain chemicals in order to start contractions, while augmentation speeds along the process once it has already started. The treatments are generally recommended once a pregnancy has lasted one or two weeks past the due date. The researchers note that the hormone oxytocin, which is used to induce labor in 50 to 70 percent of women who undergo the treatment, could pose a potential link between the procedure and autism. It is possible that the chemical has an effect on the baby’s nervous system, although the study’s authors say that the area requires further research. “While the results are interesting, we are not drawing a cause-and-effect relationship,” said study researcher Professor Simon Gregory.

The paper also reaffirmed previous connections between autism and maternal diabetes as well as pre-term birth. Babies born before 34 weeks are 25 percent more likely to develop autism and have a 23 percent increased risk if their mothers have diabetes. The team did not take into account the age of the father, severity of the autism, or medications the mother had ingested during pregnancy.While it is still unclear whether it is the chemicals or the act of inducing labor itself that leads to autism, the study stands as step towards unraveling the causes behind the mysterious disorder.

+ Duke University

via Live Science

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