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Experts find no proof that inducing labor causes autism

Autism is a communication and social disorderAfter careful review, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has found no link between labor induction and autism. Experts say that the collective research at this time is not enough to suggest a causal relationship.

“Our opinion was stimulated by a study done last year that showed a potential association between the use of drugs like Pitocin to start labor and autism in children,” said Dr. Jeffrey Ecker, the ACOG’s chair of the Committee on Obstetric Practice. “Our group very clearly recommends that current practices not be changed because evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship is not there.”

The available evidence surrounding the use of oxytocin to bring on labor is inconsistent, according to the ACOG. The group also found limitations in study design and conflicting findings in other research.

The concerns over labor induction and autism picked up considerable steam last year following a study from Duke Medicine and the University of Michigan. The research suggested that women who used labor-inducing drugs to stimulate contractions may be more likely to deliver a child with autism. Researchers from that study were unclear about the nature of the association. They were also unaware of the circumstances that required labor induction or augmentation to begin with.

The Duke study in particular did not include information about specific drugs used to bring on labor. According to the ACOG, other studies were limited in that they relied on retrospective data collection and did not account for possible confounding variables.

The ACOG considered all these details before releasing its official position. According to Ecker, the available information is not enough to warrant changing current practices.

“Changing the recommendations would almost certainly increase cesarean section rates,” he said, adding that labor induction and augmentation are an important part of patient care for many mothers and babies.

By Marianne Hayes