Pitocin and Autism – A Link?

pregnantIs there a link between the usage of pitocin, an artificial hormone given to induce or speed up labor, and the rise in autism statistics? Are we causing autism by our use of such drugs in the birth process?

The theory of a link between pitocin and autism is a controversial one, and a rather worrying one, but it is something that needs further research so that we can rule it out or do something about it.

It first entered the public forum when Geoffrey Cowley, a Newsweek reporter, interviewed physician Dr Eric Hollander of New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine for an article back in July 2000 (see http://www.newsweek.com/id/85572/page/1 for “Understanding Autism” article). Dr Hollander had made the startling discovery that 60% of his autistic patients had been exposed to pitocin in the womb, when their mothers’ labors had been induced, and said:-

“In some individuals whose oxytocin system could be genetically vulnerable, a strong environmental early hit while the brain is still developing could down-regulate the oxytocin system, leading to developmental problems. But this is only a hypothesis that has been observed by association.”

What is Pitocin?

Pitocin is a synthetic version of oxytocin, a hormone that is naturally produced by a woman’s brain to produce spontaneous labor. When oxytocin is produced in the woman’s body, it triggers uterine contractions which cause the woman’s cervix to dilate and which also propel the baby through the birth canal. When a woman goes past her due date or needs to be induced for some reason, pitocin can be used to artificially induce labor or speed things up.

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