New study suggests babies born by way of Caesarean section, or C-section as it is commonly referenced, could be at a higher risk of developing autism spectrum disorder than those who are not. The study was conducted by researchers in Ireland, at the University College Cork. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three babies in the United States are born via C-section.
Autism, a complex developmental disability, is believed to present itself during the first three years of one’s life. It is the result of a neurological disorder effecting normal brain function which affects the development of the persons social interaction and communication skills. The study is published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and suggests C-section babies could be at a 23-percent greater risk of developing the disorder.
Experts warn there is no need to panic because the publication only shows a small association between C-sections and autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Donnica Moore, women’s health expert and advocate, believes much more research is needed to demonstrate causation. Dr. Moore, who sits on the board of the Society for Women’s Health Research, said:
These are preliminary conclusions and the paper itself is not yet available for the medical community to read, digest and debate.
One theory which has an “unclear” connection is that many elective C-sections are performed weeks before the mother’s due date which robs the baby of its final stages of brain development. Another supposition which may factor in the child’s psychological development is a baby born by way of C-section is exposed to different gut flora than one born via vaginal delivery.
Dr. Moore said it is important for women to keep this in mind and talk to their obstetrician about birthing options. She added:
Cesarean sections can be life-saving for a mother and child. There are many reasons, medically, that you should have one. However, if you do not have one of those reasons, you should not elect to have a C-section.
One of the authors, Professor Louis Kenny who is also a practicing obstetrician, said the link between children developing autism and C-sections is unclear. These procedures are largely very safe and when medically necessary can be lifesaving. Professor Kenny said the risk of a child developing ASD is very small.
The report is a result of a systematic review of international studies. A senior author on the paper, Professor Patricia Kearney, stressed that more research is needed. She said the researchers compiled all the other studies that already exist and compared women who had a C-section to others who had a vaginal delivery. Then they looked at the risk of autism in those babies.
Professor Kearney explained that a number of theories were being explored such as the baby’s exposure to different microorganisms, known as microbiota, she added:
The baby that comes through the birth canal is exposed to all the different microbiotas that are sitting there, whereas a baby that is born by C-section is literally lifted out so it is exposed to the skin microbiota, and there is a lot of interest in how the different microbiota can have effects.
The research team said they are unclear about the actual link causing autism and do not believe the mode of delivery is the cause. The association is there, but whether it is the C-section or some other factor around the mode of delivery which increases the connection is unclear.
New study suggests babies born by way of Caesarean section could be at a higher risk of developing autism spectrum disorder. The study reviewed C-sections occurring before the full 40-week gestation period as opposed to elective procedures which usually happen between the 37th and 39th week. The report states it is possible that the last few weeks are important for brain development, and being born near, rather than at term, possibly leads to an increased risk of psychological problems.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)