Having labor that is induced or sped up may increase the chance of having a child with autism, according to new research.
The U.S. government estimates that one in 50 school-aged children has an autism spectrum disorder. The spectrum covers a group of developmental brain disorders that include some level of social skills, communication and behavioral impairment.
Researchers studied 625,042 live births linked with school records from the North Carolina Detailed Birth Record and Education Research databases.
Of that group, 5,500 children had been diagnosed with autism.
Doctors usually induce labor when the mother is past her due date and has not gone into labor, or when there are problems with the mother's or baby's health. They may also induce labor to speed it along if the birth process stops or slows down.
The doctor or midwife uses Pitocin, a hormone medication, to open the mother's cervix and begin contractions to prepare for birth.
Research estimates that two out of every thousand autism cases in boys might could have been prevented by not inducing or augmenting labor. Mothers that had induced labor were 16 percent more likely to have a child with the disorder.
If the woman's labor was both induced and sped up, the child was 27 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism.
There are several other factors that may affect whether children have autism, including obesity, diabetes and taking particular anti-epilepsy drugs.
"Women should not conclude that if they need induction or augmentation their child will have or be at high risk for autism. Nor should they seek to avoid induction (or) augmentation," said Jeffrey Ecker, an obstetrician at Massachusetts General Hospital.