Epidurals Used During Labor Linked to Higher Autism Risk

Obstetric and Anesthesiology Organizations Don’t Agree with Study’s Finding

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics has found that the rate of autism was higher in children whose mothers received epidurals during labor. Although, the study’s authors considered the risk only slightly higher. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were diagnosed in 1.9% of the children delivered vaginally with epidural analgesia versus 1.3% of the children delivered vaginally without the exposure. The research team is not certain of the reason behind this elevated risk. One possible explanation investigated was epidural caused fever, which affects 11.9% of mothers who receive the procedure. In the end, the team could find no clear link between maternal fever during labor and the risk of autism. 

However, a joint statement from the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology, American Society of Anesthesiologists, Society for Pediatric Anesthesia, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine disavowed the study. These organizations believe this research does not offer credible evidence that epidurals can cause an increased risk of autism and are worried that this study is causing undue anxiety to pregnant women. 

Original Article

Original Study Abstract

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