Study Shows No Association Between Epidural Analgesia and Autism Risk

May 03, 2021

However Previous Recent Research Links the Two

A new Canadian study has found no association between epidural labor analgesia (ELA) and the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in offspring. The results from this longitudinal study reported that 2.1% of children exposed to ELA later developed ASD, compared to 1.7% whose mothers did not utilize ELA. After the researchers adjusted for maternal sociodemographic, pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and perinatal factors, the rates between the two cohorts evened out. No association was found. However, the conclusion of this new study contradicts recent research which found the exact opposite effect.  In an earlier study, published last year in JAMA Pediatrics, a 37% increased risk of ASD in offspring of mothers who used ELA was found. This startling discovery quickly caused anxiety in pregnant women across the country.  Within a day, a joint statement from anesthesiology, obstetrics, and pediatric medical societies was made to disavow the study’s findings and to allay expectant mother’s concerns. Since ELA is used by 73% of pregnant women in the United States to manage pain during labor, these conflicting results are worrisome, especially since these similar studies came out in a very short period of time. Due to the contradictory findings of these two studies, the editor-in-chief of JAMA Pediatrics, Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH wrote an editor’s note pointing out the imperfect nature of the scientific process. In his note, Chritakis ultimately concludes that ELA is unlikely to cause harm. He states, “For now, my personal assessment is that the association is yet to be definitively established. If a more definitive study is done, JAMA Pediatrics will publish it.”

Original Article

Original Study Abstract

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