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Induced Labor Linked to Raised Risk of Autism, Study Suggests

Male children seem to be most vulnerable, researchers report
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"Autism risk is likely a cumulative effect of many genes and many environmental effects," he noted.

The new results should not be interpreted to mean that helping labor along is a dangerous medical practice, Gregory stressed.

"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 said. "Women should understand the medical reason for induction or augmentation. This is a discussion that they need to have with their health care provider."

Calling the new findings "hard to ignore," Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, said induction or augmentation of labor appears to be associated with a modest increase in the risk of autism. "The increased risk, even if real, is relatively small and must be weighed against the proven benefits of induction or augmentation of labor in cases where there are real concerns about the acute health of the mother and unborn infant in the hours prior to delivery."

Michael Rosanoff, associate director of public health research and scientific review at the advocacy group Autism Speaks, said much research on risk of autism focuses on the time around birth.

The new findings "warrant further research into the specific mechanism that may cause the relationship. We don't know if it's the drugs that bring on or speed up labor or the condition that causes labor to need help in the first place," he said. "Autism is a puzzle, and this is another piece that we have discovered."

More information

For more on autism, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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