2014 Press Releases

UCC research explores C-section and ASD

29 Oct 2014
UCC campus (image by Tomas Tyner)

A UCC-led study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry explored whether delivery by Caesarean section is associated with an increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in childhood.

The review examined the published literature on observational studies in various countries including the United States, Australia, Canada and Sweden that investigated the effects of delivery by Caesarean section on ASD. Overall the findings suggest that children born by Caesarean section have a 23% increased risk of ASD. The authors urge caution in interpreting the findings however, highlighting that more research is needed to further explore the elevated (but small) risk.

In addition, it is unclear what is driving the association. The relationship between mode of delivery and psychological development is complex, and may involve several contributing factors. Further investigation is needed to understand the interrelationship between environmental factors, such as mode of delivery, and genetic factors with regards to the causes of ASD.

Eileen Curran, lead author, commented: “Given the accelerating rate of Caesarean section globally, this finding warrants further research of a more robust quality using larger populations to adjust for important potential confounders and explore potential causal mechanisms.”

Professor Louise Kenny, one of the authors and a practicing obstetrician said: “Parents should be reassured that the overall risk of a child developing ASD is very small and that Caesarean section is largely a very safe procedure and when medically indicated, it can be lifesaving.”

Researchers also reviewed literature on delivery by Caesarean section and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, only two studies were included, and findings were unclear.

This research was jointly coordinated by academics from the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres, the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT) and the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC), the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre (NPEC), and the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCC, Ireland. Funding was provided by the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded Centre, INFANT (12/RC/2272).

This review is to be published in print in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and is currently available in advanced online form at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcpp.12351/abstract

About the Journal:

The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (JCPP) is internationally recognised as the leading journal covering both child and adolescent psychology and psychiatry. Articles published include experimental and developmental studies, especially those relating to developmental psychopathology and the developmental disorders.

Article citation: Curran, E.A., O’Neill, S.M., Cryan, J.F., Kenny, L.C., Dinan, T.G., Khashan, A.S. & Kearney, P.M. (2014). Research Review: Birth by caesarean section and development of autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12351

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