Parents Perspective

Rosie to the Rescue: Keeping Autism News in Perspective

By Rosie Pope

A new, buzzed-about study published by JAMA Pediatrics last week indicates that inducing and augmenting labor may be tied to an increased risk of the birthed child later being diagnosed with autism. These findings are alarming and scary for many, including myself. My labor was induced or augmented for all three of my children due to a variety of medical reasons. To cushion the blow of this news, I decided to learn more of the facts: 

rosie pope and family

To derive this conclusion, the researchers used data from over 600,000 births in North Carolina between 1990 and 1998 paired with corresponding school records documenting a designation for autism. These findings are from an observational study that warrants more research, but it only suggests that induction and labor augmentation might be "tied to" autism. The study in no way claims that these procedures "cause" autism in children. In fact, according to Reuters Health, the lead researcher, Simon Gregory of Duke Medicine in Durham, NC, says, "The benefits of induction or augmentation by (obstetricians and gynecologists) far outweigh the risks to maternal and fetal health."

It is important that the medical experts continue to research this issue. However, both the media and we mums need to be careful in the way we handle this information so there are no unintentional and significant consequences—like there were with the vaccination crisis where many children do not receive the shots they need. As concerned parents, we have a tendency to twist an observation that needs more investigating into a "fact" or "cause-and-effect" scenario, but there could be so many other underlying reasons why this link was observed that we need to take into account before jumping to conclusions.

I would be lying if I told you this information didn't scare me or that this study wouldn't cross my mind should I have another baby and need to be induced or have my labor augmented. But I am not a doctor, so I have chosen one I trust whole-heartedly. If my health and the health of my baby requires such practices to get them safely into this world (and there is no concrete evidence yet that these procedures are harmful), then I must trust what we know—not what we might fear.

As we speak to our family, friends, and colleagues about these worries, I urge you to resist adding to the hype. Do stay educated about new research that takes us closer to pinpointing the cause(s) of autism, but in the meantime, proceed with caution and good judgment until a future study actually proves a cause before taking potentially medically dangerous decisions for ourselves and our children.

For more details about this study, read Holli Lebowitz Rossi's post on Parents News Now.