A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Summer, 2023 | Number 3, Volume 37

Use of epidural analgesia during delivery may raise likelihood of autism

A new large-scale study offers evidence that the use of labor epidural analgesia (LEA) during childbirth is associated with an elevated likelihood of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children. 

Chunyuan Qiu and colleagues analyzed data on nearly 206,000 California children born by vaginal delivery between 2008 and 2017. They report, “Risk [for ASD] was approximately 20 percent greater with LEA exposure alone, compared with those unexposed after adjusting for multiple maternal, neonatal, and obstetric risk factors. Risk was 30 percent greater after exposure to both LEA and oxytocin compared with exposure to neither. However, we did not find significant ASD risk associated with oxytocin alone.” 

They conclude, “Our results call for more in-depth studies in varying study populations and practice to understand the complexity of labor and delivery and assess the long-term safety of a barrage of maternal medical interventions during labor and delivery, including LEA and oxytocin, on child health outcomes.”


“Association of labor epidural analgesia, oxytocin exposure, and risk of autism spectrum disorders in children,” Chunyuan Qiu, Sarah A. Carter, Jane C. Lin, Jiaxiao M. Shi, Ting Chow, Vimal N. Desai, Vu T. Nguyen, Joseph Spitzer, R. Klara Feldman, and Anny H. Xiang, JAMA Network Open, July 21, 2023 (free online). Address: Chunyuan Qiu, Department of Anesthesiology, Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center, 1011 Baldwin Park Blvd, Baldwin Park, CA 91706, [email protected].


 “Maternal labor epidural analgesia may be linked to autism in children,” news release, Elana Gotkine, July 26, 2023.