Induced Labor Does Not Increase Autism Risk: Study

A new study out of Utah recommends physicians continue to induce labor for mothers who are under medical duress. Despite previous claims that inducing labor might increase the likelihood of a child being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), researchers and physicians from University of Utah Health Sciences and Intermountain Healthcare have found no association between the two.

“The induction of labor is an important strategy to minimize risk to mother and baby in some situations,” says Erin A.S. Clark, M.D., a maternal fetal medicine specialist and assistant professor of obstetrics at the University of Utah. “The study reassures both patients and physicians that induction of labor does not appear to be associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder risk.”

ASD diagnoses have increased the past several decades and the disorder now affects an estimated one in 68 U.S. children. Because of this, there has been great interest in identifying potential risk factors. Previous research suggested that environmental factors during pregnancy and childbirth may increase the risk of ASD diagnosis in childhood.

But Dr. Clark says the risk of not inducing labor far outweighs any other risk. Labor is induced or augmented for many reasons, including medical indications and patient preference. Labor may be induced for multiple reasons, for example:

  • You’re two weeks past your due date and labor hasn’t started naturally.
  • Your water has not broken and you’re experiencing contractions.
  • There is an infection in the uterus.
  • You have a medical condition that might put you or your baby at risk, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

It is estimated that 1 in 54 children in Utah have Autism Spectrum Disorder.


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