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Ob-Gyns Find No Connection Between Labor Induction and Autism

ACOG Affirms Current Guidance on Labor Induction

April 21, 2014

Washington, DC  – Current evidence does not support a conclusion that labor induction or augmentation causes autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in newborns, according to a new Committee Opinion released by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College). While some studies have suggested an association between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the use of oxytocin for labor induction or augmentation, available evidence is inconsistent and does not demonstrate causation, according to the Opinion, which also found important limitations in study design and conflicting findings in existing research.

PhysiciansGiven the potential consequences of limiting labor induction and augmentation, The College’s Committee on Obstetric Practice recommends against changes to existing guidance regarding counseling and indications for, and methods of, labor induction and augmentation.

“In obstetric practice, labor induction and augmentation play an essential role in protecting the health of some mothers and in promoting safe delivery of many babies,” said Jeffrey L. Ecker, MD. Dr. Ecker is chair of the Committee on Obstetric Practice, which developed the new Committee Opinion. “When compared with these benefits, the research we reviewed in assembling this Committee Opinion, relative to the utilization of oxytocin, had clear limitations. Because of this, these studies should not impact how obstetricians already safely and effectively use labor induction and augmentation when caring for their patients.”

The Committee reviewed research evaluating the association between oxytocin – commonly administered for labor induction and augmentation – and ASD in children. As noted in the Opinion, these studies have “a number of limitations, such as small size, retrospective data collection, and limited control for possible confounding variables.”

Importantly, as described in “Labor Induction or Augmentation and Autism,” any discussion about labor induction must take into account the impact on clinical obstetric practice, where labor induction and augmentation play a large role in patient care. Reducing appropriate use of labor induction would almost certainly increase the cesarean delivery rate and, as a consequence, could adversely impact the health outcomes of both the mother and the child.

Committee Opinion #597, “Labor Induction or Augmentation and Autism,” will be published in the May issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. The Opinion was also endorsed by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

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Other recommendations issued in this month’s Obstetrics & Gynecology:

Committee Opinion #595 "Preexposure Prophylaxis for the Prevention of Human Immunodeficiency Virus" (NEW!)

ABSTRACT: Preexposure prophylaxis is defined as the administration of antiretroviral medications to individuals who are not infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and are at the highest risk of acquiring HIV infection. In combination with other proven HIV-prevention methods, preexposure prophylaxis may be a useful tool for women at the highest risk of HIV acquisition. Obstetrician–gynecologists involved in the care of women using preexposure prophylaxis must reinforce adherence to daily medication. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for preexposure prophylaxis is likely to evolve in the coming years, and obstetrician–gynecologists should remain aware of new developments in this area. Risk reduction for all women at risk of HIV infection should include counseling about testing, safe-sex practices (including condom use), and other behavioral interventions.

Committee Opinion #596 "Routine Human Immunodeficiency Virus Screening" (Revised)

ABSTRACT: Early diagnosis and treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can improve survival and reduce morbidity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that females aged 13–64 years be tested at least once in their lifetime and annually thereafter based on factors related to risk. In addition, obstetrician–gynecologists should annually review patients’ risk factors for HIV and assess the need for retesting. The opportunity for repeat testing should be made available to all women even in the absence of identified risk factors. Women who are infected with HIV should receive or be referred for appropriate clinical and supportive care. Obstetrician–gynecologists who use rapid tests must be prepared to provide counseling to women who receive positive test results the same day that the specimen is collected. Obstetrician–gynecologists should be aware of and comply with legal requirements regarding HIV testing in their jurisdictions and institutions.

Committee Opinion #598 "The Initial Reproductive Health Visit" (Revised)

ABSTRACT: The initial visit for screening and the provision of reproductive preventive health care services and guidance should take place between the ages of 13 years and 15 years. The initial reproductive health visit provides an excellent opportunity for the obstetrician–gynecologist to start a patient–physician relationship, build trust, and counsel patients and parents regarding healthy behavior while dispelling myths and fears. The scope of the initial reproductive health visit will depend on the individual’s need, medical history, physical and emotional development, and the level of care she is receiving from other health care providers. A general exam, a visual breast exam, and external pelvic examination may be indicated. However, an internal pelvic examination generally is unnecessary during the initial reproductive health visit, but may be appropriate if issues or problems are discovered in the medical history. Health care providers and office staff should be familiar with state and local statutes regarding the rights of minors to consent to health care services and the federal and state laws that affect confidentiality.

Committee Opinion #599 "Adolescent Confidentiality and Electronic Health Records" (NEW!)

ABSTRACT: Confidentiality concerns are heightened during adolescence, and these concerns can be a critical barrier to adolescents in receiving appropriate health care. Health care providers caring for minors should be aware of federal and state laws that affect confidentiality. State statutes on the rights of minors to consent to health care services vary by state, and health care providers should be familiar with the regulations that apply to their practice. Parents and adolescents should be informed, both separately and together, that the information each of them shares with the health care provider will be treated as confidential, and of any restrictions to the confidential nature of the relationship. Health care providers and institutions establishing an electronic health record (EHR) system should consider systems with adolescent-specific modules that can be customized to accommodate the confidentiality needs related to minor adolescents and comply with the requirements of state and federal laws. If the EHR system does not allow for procedures to maintain adolescent confidentiality, the health care provider or staff should inform the patient that parents will have access to the records, and the patient should be given the option for referral to a health care provider who is required to provide confidential care, such as one who participates in the Title X family planning program.

Practice Bulletin #144 "Multifetal Gestations: Twin, Triplet, and Higher-Order Multifetal Pregnancies" (Revised)

ABSTRACT: The incidence of multifetal gestations in the United States has increased dramatically over the past several decades. The rate of twin births increased 76% between 1980 and 2009, from 18.9 to 33.3 per 1,000 births (1). The rate of triplet and higher-order multifetal gestations increased more than 400% during the 1980s and 1990s, peaking at 193.5 per 100,000 births in 1998, followed by a modest decrease to 153.4 per 100,000 births by 2009 (2). The increased incidence in multifetal gestations has been attributed to two main factors: 1) a shift toward an older maternal age at conception, when multifetal gestations are more likely to occur naturally, and 2) an increased use of assisted reproductive technology (ART), which is more likely to result in a multifetal gestation (3).

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 57,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization. www.acog.org

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