C-Section Autism Linked
Recent medical studies in Sweden, including one that studied over 2.5 million births, suggested that children born by Cesarean section were 21 percent more likely than children born vaginally to be diagnosed with autism.
Doctors who promote natural deliveries are expressing concern of long term effects on humans from our current rate of C-Section births. One doctor who has been vocal on this is Dr. Michael Odent, who is well known for decades of encouraging natural labors and uninterrupted contact between the baby and mother until after the first breastfeeding.
Dr. Odent believes that rising autism rates may also be increased from inducing labor with synthetic oxytocin, such as Pitocin. Other interventions such as anesthesia drugs (epidurals), and elevated stress responses could also play a role.
Other medical care providers have suggested that correlation does not equal causation. In other words, just because there is a higher rate of autism among babies born by C-Section, it is not necessarily the C-Section that created that result. Pediatrician Paul Wang notes that it is entirely possible that a fetus with developmental issues may in some way play a role in a higher need for a C-Section. If the baby has low muscle tone, it might impact his or her ability to move into proper position during labor, making surgical intervention more likely to be needed.
No one disputes that C-sections are a blessing for individuals whose lives can be saved by them, but Dr. Odent believes firmly that deviations from nature’s ways has a price, and increased prevalence of autism may be part of that price.
Reducing C-Sections with a Doula
Whatever the cause, or whether or not autism is related to C-Section, if there are proven methods of reducing the need for C-Section, Pitocin, epidurals, or other interventions during labor, those methods should be used as a first resort. And there is such a method – the presence of a labor support provider (doula) with the birthing mother.
Last fall, Cochrane, a global independent network of researchers, performed a meta-analysis of doula studies. They complied 26 studies that provided data from 17 countries, involving more than 15,000 women. Their analysis confirmed what massage doulas already know, that there is a 60 percent reduction in women’s odds of having a C-section, and 80 percent lower odds of having a nonmedically indicated C-section when women have a doula. Here is a summary of their analysis:
Continuous support during labour may improve outcomes for women and infants, including increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labour, and decreased caesarean birth, instrumental vaginal birth, use of any analgesia, use of regional analgesia, low five-minute Apgar score and negative feelings about childbirth experiences. We found no evidence of harms of continuous labour support. Subgroup analyses should be interpreted with caution, and considered as exploratory and hypothesis-generating, but evidence suggests continuous support with certain provider characteristics, in settings where epidural analgesia was not routinely available, in settings where women were not permitted to have companions of their choosing in labour, and in middle-income country settings, may have a favourable impact on outcomes such as caesarean birth. Future research on continuous support during labour could focus on longer-term outcomes (breastfeeding, mother-infant interactions, postpartum depression, self-esteem, difficulty mothering) and include more woman-centred outcomes in low-income settings.
Becoming a Massage Doula
If you are a massage therapist who would like to be part of helping women achieve healthier labors, you should become a massage doula. The Institute of Somatic Therapy has been offering doula certification training since 1999. To learn more, visit Institute of Somatic Therapy Massage Doula Certification Package or visit our sister website: www.massagedoula.com
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