An inducing labor and autism link found in a recent study has, predictably, caused significant debate as well as questions regarding the potential impact of the research.
The alleged link between inducing labor and autism is one to which many would immediately object, in part given to the lengthy embrace of discredited research linking vaccines to autism.
While the doctor responsible for the claim’s widespread acceptance has since been sanctioned and the vaccine autism link widely rebutted, the notion remains deeply embedded in the anti-vaccine movement’s platform and position.
Further complicating the matter are intense social and medical pressures and conflicts over the process of labor and delivery, with many women feeling shamed by the need for medical interventions to give birth.
Families often resist induction even at the insistence of a doctor, and the published study in JAMA Pediatrics will be an additional point of debate and likely pain for women who’d hoped to experience births without any complicating factors — essentially, the research will inadvertently compound maternal guilt as well as pressure on mothers to deliver without intervention.
The study on inducing labor and autism increase was authored by Simon Gregory, an associate professor of medicine and medical genetics at Duke University.
Gregory urged people to understand that the study did not necessarily prove a link, saying:
“In the vast majority of cases, pregnancy should be induced or augmented for cogent medical reasons, and if it isn’t, the risk to mother and child is significantly worse than risk for developing autism… Women should understand the medical reason for induction or augmentation. This is a discussion that they need to have with their health care provider.”
Marie Lynn Miranda, senior author of the paper and a professor of Environmental Informatics and Pediatrics at the University of Michigan, said that the study is not a directive to alter labor best practices just yet.
Miranda indicated that the information seemingly linking induced labor and autism could wrongly dissuade a woman from listening to her own obstetrician:
“This study does not provide sufficient evidence for any change in best practice… If my best friend asked me I would tell her to follow the advice of her obstetrician.”
Miranda adds that the sole takeaway is that more research is needed on the inducing labor autism link:
“We’re saying this is an important piece of information in the autism spectrum puzzle and something that’s certainly worth investigating more.”
Dr. Chad A. Grotegut of Duke echoed the sentiment, noting that a link is not sufficient evidence to assume a precipitate, explaining:
“We do not know if the maternal medical conditions or fetal conditions that necessitate labor induction or augmentation, the medications used, or events that occur prior to or during labor explain the association.”
The inducing labor autism link is relevant to many babies born, as one in five births is “hastened or augmented” in the US.