December 6, 2013

Keeping a Heathly Skepticism with Medical Procedures in Birth

Keeping a Healthy Skepticism with Medical Procedures in Birth

I have been involved with childbirth for many years now.  When I had my children, a cesarean was still an emergency and I didn’t hear much about induction of labor.  Even epidurals were rather uncommon.  I remember having an x-ray taken to see that my daughter was in a single footling breech presentation

Today this has changed. Cesareans have become more commonplace and are no longer always considered emergencies and inductions and epidurals are performed so frequently that women associate them as a way to give birth. And the risks of x-ray are well known and thus not used  in birth today, having been replaced by ultrasound. Ultrasound produces an image on the screen by moving sound through a liquid medium.  Sound is vibration and vibration has heat.  We don’t know the effects of these bursts of heat on the fetus.

As a physical therapist, I worked many years in the public schools with special needs children. I was also teaching BirthWorks childbirth preparation classes.  In both areas of work, in the early 1990s I began hearing about more inductions being performed.  At the same time, I also began hearing more about a rising incidence of autism and was treating more of these children in the schools as many had low tone and delayed gross motor skills.  I wondered if there was any relation between induction and autism.

If you go to Dr. Michel Odent’s primal health database (visit and click on primal health research, a number of studies can be found exploring possible connections between obstetrical drugs and medical procedures in birth and autism. One such example is the study from Japan titled “Autistic and developmental disorders after general anaesthetic delivery.” (Hatton R et al. Lancet 1991;337:1357-1358) The abstract of this study states that:

Children born in a certain hospital in Japan were more at risk of becoming autistic.  In this hospital, children were usually delivered by the “KitasatoUniversity method” which is characterized by a complex combination of sedatives, anaesthetic agents and analgesics together with a planned delivery induced by oxytocin or prostaglandins a week before the expected date of delivery.

Then just this past September, CNN announced concerns that induction and augmentation in labor may be associated with an increased risk of autism. They were careful to say that this is not cause and effect but only concern.  Here is what they said:

Pregnant women whose labors are induced or augmented may have an increased risk of bearing children with autism, especially if the baby is male, according to a large, retrospective analysis by researchers at Duke medicine and the University of Michigan.  The findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics on August 12, 2013, do not prove cause and effect, but suggest the need for more research, particularly as labor induction and augmentation have been used more frequently in recent years.  Expediting deliveries has benefitted women with health conditions that pose a risk to them and their unborn children.

In this study, the researchers looked at records of all births in North Carolina over an eight-year period and matched 625,042 births with corresponding public school records, which indicated whether children were diagnosed with autism.  Approximately 1.3 percent of male children and 0.4 percent of female children had autism diagnoses.  In both male and female children, the percentage of mothers who had induced or augmented labor was higher among children with autism compared with those who did not have autism. 

The findings suggest that among male children, labor that was both induced and augmented was associated with a 35 percent higher risk of autism, compared with labor that received neither treatment.

I maintain a healthy skepticism towards the use of obstetrical drugs and medical procedures used in birth today.  There are certainly good reasons for their use in very specific instances when the mother and baby are truly at risk, however their routine use needs to be decreased.  We simply know too little about the human body, especially a fetus, to completely understand how obstetrical drugs and medical procedures may affect the delicate physiology that composes the human body. We must remember that birth is sacred and a baby is a miracle and not interfere with a process thousands of years old, unless absolutely necessary.  

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