Friday, June 10, 2011

Pitocin linked to ADHD

A recent study shows a link between perinatal pitocin exposure and ADHD in children. Pitocin is a drug used to induce a woman's labour, or to make her contractions stronger. It is a synthetic version of our own hormone, oxytocin.

Keep in mind any conclusion such as this one needs to be investigated in a clinical trial, in order to reduce the effect of confounding factors.

(Confounding variables in statistics can have an impact on the conclusions we make - for example, I could say that eating cheese leads to a higher risk of heart attack. But have I taken into account confouding variables such as age, gender, and the fact that my research subjects also drink a lot, smoke and eat a lot of fried foods? So, I cannot conclude that eating cheese leads to heart attack, as I have not properly controlled for confounding variables)

This hypothesis should be investigated in a randomized controlled trial, which include ways to control confounding variables, such as blinding participants and using placebos. (I do wonder how this could work - would you recruit women who had just found out they were going to be induced, blind them to the drug used, and then recruit a set of "normal" volunteers who were not going to be induced? Hmmm....this would make an excellent PhD project!!! But the amount of funding you would need to follow these babies into childhood/adolescence would be staggering!!)

However, it is still disconcerting to see such a strong correlation between pitocin exposure and ADHD, and is something we should be keeping an eye on in the birthing community. Medical science can be a thing of wonder, but it is not immune to horrible mistakes (we all remember the Hormone Replacement Therapy scandal!) There are side effects of Pitocin that we do know about, and this study just adds to the suspicion that routine obstetrical interventions may not be all they're cut out to be.

If you're reading this, and your child was exposed to Pitcoin (or you are pregnant and terrified of receiving it), please don't panic when reading this post!! Keep in mind that sometimes the benefits associated with a drug/intervention can outweigh the risks, especially when it comes to your health or the health of your baby. Rest assured that nothing has been proven, and that this is all speculation.

What is important is that you feel informed when making a decision to use Pitocin during labour. Always question your doctor/midwife about the risks and benefits, and ask whether a "wait and see" approach may be best. And when in doubt, hire a doula, because we'll make it clear for you and help you with your decisions!

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