A new study suggests that inducing a woman's labor may increase the risk of her having a child with autism, but experts say there's not enough evidence to urge doctors to change the way they handle childbirth.
In a study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers at Duke University explained that the link between induced labor and autism is likely a signifier of an underlying problem with the pregnancy.
"Infants destined to develop autism are less likely to send out the correct biochemical signals for normal progression of labor," Tara Wenger, a pediatric genetics fellow at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who was not involved in the study, told USA Today.
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One in 88 children in the U.S. is born with autism, a spectrum disorder that affects communication and behavior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The JAMA study tracked 625,000 babies born in North Carolina between 1990 and 1998 and looked at public school records later to see who was diagnosed with autism.
Male babies born to moms whose labors were either induced or medically helped along were 35 percent more likely to develop the disorder, the study found, even after controlling for outside factors such as the mother's age.
Study author Simon Gregory, an associate professor of medicine and medical genetics at Duke University in Durham, N.C., said that labor can be sped up in a number of ways — by applying a hormone gel to the cervix or by giving a woman oxytocin, an artificial version of the natural hormone involved in labor, intravenously.
But, he cautioned, the study's findings are no reason for doctors to change their childbirth practices.
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"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," he told HealthDay News.
"Women should understand the medical reason for induction or augmentation. This is a discussion that they need to have with their healthcare provider."
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