When discussing autism, medical professionals aren’t exactly sure what is the cause. Is it genetic? The result of an unhealthy pregnancy? Attributable to birth injury?
Lately researchers have focused on the latter inquiry – whether autism is the consequence of problems that occurred during labor and/or delivery. But even then, the query is still unclear; even if there seems to be a positive correlation between autism and birth injury, it’s seemingly impossible to determine if birth trauma is responsible for the onset of autism, or if it is the nature of a child predisposed to suffer from autism to incur a difficult, and injury-provoking birth.
The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, ultimately suggests that the risk of autism was increased by an interaction between both genetic factors and affects of pregnancy care, labor, and delivery. But no conclusive results were found determining a concrete cause for autism.
Several factors, however, were ruled out as being responsible for the onset of autism. These factors included: anesthesia for the mother during labor and delivery, assisted vaginal delivery, post-term birth, a high birth weight, and the child’s head circumference. On the other side of the coin, however, different elements seemed to have a significant correlation to births of autistic children. A number of these factors included: abnormal presentation or situation of the fetus, umbilical-cord complications, low birth weight, and birth injury or trauma.
Again, however, if we focus on the issue of birth injury, that factor alone is correlated with a number of other factors that are seemingly related to autism. So the questions remain unanswered: does birth injury cause autism? Does autism increase the likelihood of birth injury? Or are autism and birth injuries only related insofar as autism increases the risk of other circumstances that, themselves up the odds of birth injuries?
As technology progresses, and as more and more studies develop, this will be a fascinating question to follow from the point of view of the law: if birth injuries really are responsible for the onset of autism, many health care providers could be held accountable for mistakes made in the delivery room that ultimately led to difficulties experienced both by autistic children, and the parents caring for those children.