In the latest search to find a cause for autism, researchers have examined if there is a link between C-sections and the spectrum. A study just published in The Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the difference in autism rates between children born via elective C-sections, which are C-sections done for no pressing medical reason, emergency C-sections and babies born vaginally.
They found that the highest association was found in looking at rates of autism to children born via C-section (of either kind) as compared to children born via vaginal birth. In fact, children born via C-section were 20 percent more likely to have autism than children born via the vag.
In taking a closer look, interestingly enough, elective C-sections didn't have higher rates of autism, but emergency C-sections did appear to be "significantly" linked to higher rates. Researchers noted once they had set up some more controls in the study, that link did disappear, however. In other words, the emergency that led to the C-section didn't appear to be a factor in the autism either.
What's important about this study is that the researchers did use siblings to check their findings and found that ultimately, using 13,411 sibling pairs, that the C-section-autism link was not compelling enough. "The association did not persist when using sibling controls, implying that this association is due to familial confounding by genetic and/or environmental factors," the study concluded. In other words, the autism rates were not specifically linked to the C-sections.
The search to find a specific cause to autism can feel like the world's worst association game. Hmmm, kids with blue eyes have autism, maybe eye color causes autism! The sheer volume of studies that haven't really found anything significant can almost seem ridiculous, although heaven knows it's a good thing we are pouring resources into research because it is so, so needed.
But I have to admit that this study does make sense. I mean, C-section rates have risen steadily and with our current realization about how little we know about the placenta's role in development, it only makes sense that there could be some kind of link from the surgery.
Based on the results of this study, however, it would appear we still need to keep looking.
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