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C-section delivery increases risk of autism symptoms in children by 23%

Caesarean section

(NaturalNews) Children delivered by Caesarean section are 23 percent more likely to develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than babies born vaginally, according to a meta-analysis conducted by researchers from University College Cork, Ireland, and published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

"Given the accelerating rate of Caesarean section globally, this finding warrants further research of a more robust quality," lead researcher Eileen Curran said.

Approximately 0.62 percent of children are now diagnosed with ASD, a 20-fold increase since the 1980s. Many researchers believe that this rate of increase suggests an actual increase in prevalence, not just improvements in diagnosis and detection.

Similarly, C-section rates have also surged in recent decades. Globally, the C-section rate is now 20 percent. In the United States, it is about one-third.

Gut bacteria and brain development

The researchers compared the results of 25 prior studies of a possible link between C-sections and autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The analysis showed a 23 percent higher rate of ASD among children delivered by C-section. The data also suggested a higher rate of ADHD but were not conclusive.

The researchers emphasized that the study did not prove that C-sections cause autism. However, the findings are consistent with prior research suggesting that autism may be, in part, caused by an abnormal composition of bacteria in the gut.

Studies have shown that children born by C-section have different collections of gut bacteria than children born vaginally. This may have serious long-term health consequences, as the gut microbiome has been shown to play a key role in regulating digestion, immune function, mood, and the nervous and endocrine (hormonal) systems. Some gut bacteria might actually release signaling molecules that directly influence the vagus nerve, which runs all the way to the base of the brain.

Many scientists have suggested that having an abnormal microbiome from birth may affect immune and psychological development, resulting in health problems from allergies and asthma to autism.

Other researchers have suggested that C-sections may increase the rate of autism because many of them are performed prior to the onset of natural labor. The typical scheduled C-section takes place between 37 and 39 weeks of gestation, whereas the average due date comes at 40 weeks.

"It is possible the last few weeks are important for brain development, and therefore being born near rather than at term may lead to an increased risk of psychological problems," the researchers wrote.

Risks of labor interventions

A prior study, published in the JAMA Pediatrics in August 2013, may support this hypothesis. The researchers found that pharmaceutically inducing childbirth was associated with a higher rate of autism.

"[I]nduced only, or augmented only [labors] experienced increased odds of autism after controlling for potential confounders related to socioeconomic status, maternal health, pregnancy-related events and conditions, and birth year," the researchers wrote.

A full 25 percent of labors in the United States are chemically induced. This includes 44 percent of labors that begin with an attempted vaginal delivery.

C-sections are twice as common among women whose labors are pharmaceutically induced.

Regardless of whether they are ultimately shown to be a cause of autism, C-sections are known to carry serious health risks for both mother and child.

"Babies born via C-sections have an increased chance of having to be administered into the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] and suffer from breathing problems," said Maureen Corry, Executive Director of Childbirth Connection. "Mothers are more likely to have a major infection, they are at higher risk for embolisms, for bleeding, and for long term consequences... some of which can be life threatening."

Sources for this article include:










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