Increased Risk of Autism Development in Children Whose Mothers Experienced Birth Complications or Received Labor and Delivery Drugs

ASN Neuro. 2016 Aug 9;8(4):1759091416659742. doi: 10.1177/1759091416659742. Print 2016 Aug.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a perplexing and pervasive developmental disorder characterized by social difficulties, communicative deficits, and repetitive behavior. The increased rate of ASD diagnosis has raised questions concerning the genetic and environmental factors contributing to the development of this disorder; meanwhile, the cause of ASD remains unknown. This study surveyed mothers of ASD and non-ASD children to determine possible effects of labor and delivery (L&D) drugs on the development of ASD. The survey was administered to mothers; however, the results were analyzed by child, as the study focused on the development of autism. Furthermore, an independent ASD dataset from the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center was analyzed and compared. Indeed, L&D drugs are associated with ASD (p = .039). Moreover, the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center dataset shows that the labor induction drug, Pitocin, is significantly associated with ASD (p = .004). We also observed a synergistic effect between administrations of L&D drugs and experiencing a birth complication, in which both obstetrics factors occurring together increased the likelihood of the fetus developing ASD later in life (p = .0003). The present study shows the possible effects of L&D drugs, such as Pitocin labor-inducing and analgesic drugs, on children and ASD.

Keywords: ASD; Pitocin; autism; birth complications; induction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bupivacaine / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / epidemiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / epidemiology*
  • Oxytocics / adverse effects
  • Oxytocin / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Oxytocics
  • Oxytocin
  • Bupivacaine