Exploring a possible link between C-sections and autism

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(Perri Klass, M.D./ New York Times) — Cesarean delivery can save a baby — or a mother — at a moment of medical danger. However, cesarean births have been linked to an increased risk of various long-term health issues for both women and children, and a recent study shows an association between cesarean birth and the risk of developing autism or attention deficit disorder.

The study, published in August in JAMA Network Open, was a meta-analysis. It looked at data from 61 previously published studies, which together included more than 20 million deliveries, and found that birth by cesarean section was associated with a 33 percent higher risk of autism and a 17 percent higher risk of attention deficit disorder. The increased risk was present for both planned and unplanned cesarean deliveries.

The first and most important thing to say is that these were observational studies, and that association is not the same as causation. The children born by cesarean section may be different in important ways from the children born vaginally, and those differences may include factors that could affect their later neurodevelopment, from maternal health issues to developmental problems already present during pregnancy to prematurity to difficult deliveries. (…)

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