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Autism risk linked to assisted birth: study

By John von Radowitz

Assisted labour during childbirth can raise the risk of autism by more than a third, research has shown. The link is especially strong for boys and comparable with other autism risk factors such as having an older mother and early birth.

Scientists who studied data on around 625,000 births found the chances of a boy developing autism increased by 35% if his mother underwent two forms of assisted labour.

"Inducing or augmenting labour has been previously suggested as a contributing factor to autism development. However, these studies produced conflicting results and consisted of a relatively small number of subjects," said lead researcher Dr Simon Gregory, from Duke University Medical Centre in the US. "Our study is by far the largest one of its kind to look at the association between autism and induction or augmentation."

Induced labour involves stimulating contractions before they start spontaneously. Augmenting labour increases the strength, duration or frequency of contractions.

In the UK, 1% of the population is autistic.

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