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Babies born via C-section more likely to develop autism


Babies born through Caesarean section are more likely to develop autism, a new study claims.

In a report, academics warn increasingly popular C-section deliveries heighten the risk of the disorder by 23%.

However, they urge caution on the findings and have stressed more research is needed.

Professor Louise Kenny, one of the authors and a practising obstetrician, said the link between C-sections and children developing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) also remains unclear.

“The overall risk of a child developing ASD is very small”

Louise Kenny

“Parents should be reassured that the overall risk of a child developing ASD is very small and that Caesarean section is largely a very safe procedure and when medically indicated, it can be lifesaving,” she said.

The study was carried out by University College Cork (UCC) and has been published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

It reviewed existing findings from studies on C-section and ASD in a number of countries including the United States, Australia, Canada and Sweden.

They also looked for any links between the surgical delivery of a baby and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

University of Cork

Louise Kenny

But there were only two studies to review and their findings were unclear.

Eileen Curran, lead author of the report, said the relationship between the type of delivery used in childbirth and psychological development is complex.

“Given the accelerating rate of Caesarean section globally, this finding warrants further research of a more robust quality using larger populations to adjust for important potential confounders and explore potential causal mechanisms,” she said.

The rate of births by C-section has been rising steadily in recent years.

In Britain, rates have increased threefold over the past three decades from 4.5% of deliveries in 1970 to around one in four births now.

children 182

BMJ: The number of new cases of autism being diagnosed has levelled off after 1990s surge

In Ireland, more than a third of babies are delivered by C-section in some of the country’s main maternity units.

The World Health Organization recommends that no more than between 10% and 15% of births should be through the surgical method.

Last year, a study published in the British Medical Journal said the number of new cases of autism being diagnosed had levelled off after a surge in reported cases during the 1990s.

It suggested increased awareness and diagnosis of the condition were behind the earlier rising rates.

However, a monitoring report by the US Centers for Disease Control claimed a 78% rise in autism cases between 2002 and 2008.



Readers' comments (7)

  • I'm no expert (I work in mental health) but it doesn't seem to differentiate between elective and emergency c-sections - as surely the 'emergency' that preceeds the surgery may play some role?

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  • Some research papers link autism to the increased use of antibiotics, for example, babies who score two or more risk factors may be prescribed prophylactic antibiotics at birth. The destruction of the gut flora, by the antibiotics, may contribute to 'leaky gut syndrome' allowing toxins to pass via the bowel into the blood steam affecting the developing brain. Other research papers suggest that those babies who do not pass through the birth canal may not become colonized with bacteria in the normal way so contributing to the 'leaky gut' syndrome. I am not an expert either and the etiology appears complex but this could be the link with cesarean sections and autism, more research is needed.

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  • Thank you for now having added a link to the paper itself.

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  • Except it is paywalled...

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  • The study reports an association; this does not imply any causation! It's too early to make any conclusions from this.

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  • I suppose as a aprent you want any answers to why a child has autism.
    my eldest has autism he will be 30 next week and was born by elective section.
    my youngest is 26 and she was born by emergency c-section. in between those two I had a normal delivery also.
    niether of my 2 girls suffer from autism just my son.

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  • as a parent you cling to any theories that might help you find out why you child has autism. my eldest suffers from the condition , he will be 30 next week. i had him by elective c-section after years of fertility treatment.
    my 3 rd child was deliverd by an emergency c-section . I also have a 3rd child born in the middle of my two sections.
    only my son has autism. still hope one day for a answer to why it occurs.

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