In The Politics of Autism, I write:
If the science were not confusing enough, its coverage in the mass media has added another layer of murk. News reports hype tentative findings and weak correlations as “breakthroughs” in the quest for autism answers. When the research yields mixed results, the media headlines can be comically inconsistent. Consider how various publications covered a 2013 study on the impact of in vitro fertilization:
- RARE IN VITRO TECHNIQUE RAISES AUTISM RISK, STUDY SAYS
- IVF PROCEDURES DO NOT BOOST AUTISM RISK
- SOME FORMS OF IVF LINKED TO AUTISM, MENTAL DISABILITY
- IVF, AUTISM NOT LINKED, BUT STUDY FINDS RISK OF INTELLECTUAL DISABILIT
Recent headlines suggest very different interpretations of an article about cesarean sections.
- Study: C-Section Tied to Higher Risk of Autism C-Section Babies 33% More Likely to Develop Autism
- Possible Link between C-section and Autism, ADHD
- Cesarean Sections Probably Don't Cause Autism or ADHD: 'Correlation Doesn't Equal Causation'
Judge the article for yourself:
Tianyang Zhang and colleagues have an article at JAMA Network titled "Association of Cesarean Delivery With Risk of Neurodevelopmental and Psychiatric Disorders in the Offspring A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis."
This systematic review and meta-analysis explored the association of cesarean delivery with a wide range of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric outcomes. Compared with vaginal delivery, cesarean delivery was associated with increased risk of several neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders. The estimates for ASD (33% increased odds) and ADHD (17% increased odds) were statistically significant, but other disorders, such as learning disabilities, tic disorders, OCD, and eating disorders, presented with similar or higher odds, although these were not statistically significant, possibly because of the modest number of studies.
The mechanisms underlying the observed associations remain unknown and require empirical investigation to examine whether cesarean delivery plays a causal role in the development of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders.