Numbing Autism Numbers – AGE OF AUTISM
By Cathy Jameson
When I saw the latest headlines on autism, I was reminded of something I published a few years ago.
Epidural use during labor associated with minimal risk of autism, studies find
Epidurals are not linked to autism in children, new data shows
As early as 2013, researchers asked whether induction of labor could increase the risk of autism. Some reports that spread like wildfire said yes a link existed. I had to share my thoughts on these results on the air one night. I wasn’t asked to talk about the latest news, but I wasn’t shocked to see that some of the information was wrong.
In the first study, which looked at nearly 390,000 children born in Canadian hospitals between 2000 and 2014, 1.5% of those exposed to epidural anesthesia during childbirth have been diagnosed later with autism spectrum disorder, the data showed.
Another news report said, “Those who have been exposed to epidural anesthesia during childbirth have approx. 5% increased risk of autism… “but then said:” Parents can rest assured that there is no link between the use of PDAs and autism spectrum disorder and, based on current knowledge, the risk of autism spectrum disorder does not have to be considered when deciding whether to use PDAs during labor or not … ”
But wait, 1.5% of those exposed were diagnosed with ASA.
And a 5% increased risk is not an ideal 0%.
What can mothers do today?
If I could share my thoughts on this recent news today, I would give answers similar to what I shared after my 2013 interview.
Question: Should pregnant women be concerned (about the results of this study)?
Me: If the reason for using epidural anesthesia is for an emergency to protect the mother or child, her life, or the life of her baby, then this medical intervention may be required.
Well, if the reason for adding epidural anesthesia to the birthing plan is an arbitrary one, for example for the convenience of the doctor, then I think pregnant women should be concerned. However, there would be no concern about studying or about autism. It would be a concern for their personal needs and that they are not a priority for their provider.
As has been the case with autism parents for so long, pregnant women need to arm themselves with as much information as possible. You have to do this before entering a doctor’s office. Your input is just as important, if not more, than what the doctors have to say. If a woman needs intervention, she should find out what options she has and what the risks are early on. I would encourage expectant mothers to do thorough research and read as much as possible during their pregnancy. She should educate herself about the procedure and medications that can be given – including those that are clearly not recommended for pregnant women but are often used to induce or relieve labor.
A lot of information is available to women when they know where to start. A helpful resource is Jennifer Margulis’ book, The Business of Baby. Finally, I would recommend hiring a doula to provide the pregnant woman with continuous physical, emotional and informative support during pregnancy and childbirth.
Question: What advice, if any, do you have for parents who have children with autism and for mothers considering epidural anesthesia?
Me: how long can I talk? Serious. I could talk about that for a long time! For the first part of this question, I think parents need to keep talking louder about what happened to our children. We need to keep talking about it, about autism and that autism rates are still rising.
Second, what would I say to mothers whose job included epidural anesthesia? Unfortunately, you can’t go back in time to change what happened. But you can take action now!
Look for therapy and appropriate interventions.
Get started asap and stick with it.
Since it can be overwhelming, find a support group to guide you. Over time, as you read, do your research and discover the procedures and medical interventions that you have chosen to go with. You may be related to autism. Read, research, ask questions, and repeat until you have a good understanding of what happened and why. If the side effects can be reversed, try to do just that. Autism is medical. It can be treated. Fortunately, for some, an autism diagnosis can also be reversed.
Question: Is this study being discussed in your circles?
Me: When these “studies” come out, I can’t help but wonder what other autism messages might be covering up. And, come on, media! It’s not the 1950s. Stop blaming mom or mom’s choices for autism. If you want to do something that will get everyone to read and share your stories, get someone to investigate the inflated vaccination schedule and how it is messing up the health of so many children. I guarantee it will get front page news.
Question: Do you think more studies need to be done?
Me: Well, I would prefer to be more action than study. People need help now. Sure, it would be nice to have more definitive answers on what causes autism, but check out what other studies have been leading to on autism: old fathers, big-breasted mothers, college-educated parents who live near a freeway , using prenatal ultrasound, Tylenol, jaundice, bigger head size, and watching TV. That’s enough! Families working through an autism diagnosis are in crisis. You need support. Why don’t you take some of that research money and put it into intervention programs and biomedical treatment options? Studies create speculation and delays. Action can help people now.
At the moment we are facing another crisis – vaccination or something else. Vaccinate or lose your job. Vaccinate or Lose Your Benefits. Get vaccinated or lose your place in school. Almost all of my news feed is a COVID vaccine-related story, so I was surprised to find some autism news in the mix. However, I will keep an eye on the latest information on autism and epidural anesthesia because something interesting always seems to happen after such information. Some of this is good news, such as that a successful treatment option is becoming available. Sometimes the news is bad, like when I was looking for this autism and job induction story in 2013.
Three years after autism was linked to labor induction, news reports said it was not. How confusing for the young parents-to-be! How unfortunate that we cannot believe everything science wants us to believe at any given moment.
Science is “… the search for knowledge. It uses that knowledge to solve problems. ”So I will always ask parents to read whatever they can about the subject they are researching. It might be numbing at times, but dig deeper to see who is funding the research and who is benefiting from the results, too. Use the knowledge gained by reading and asking questions! Besides asking parents to be careful who they trust, I tell them to always trust their instincts. It’s there to protect them. More importantly, it also helps them protect their babies.
Cathy Jameson is co-editor for Age of Autism.