Induced Labor: Does Exposure to Pitocin Increase Your Baby’s Risk for Autism?

Autism rates from 1996 to 2007 skyrocketed, showing the amount of U.S. residential children ages 6-17 diagnosed with autism (out of every 1000 children).

Autism rates from 1996 to 2007 skyrocketed: This graphic shows the amount of U.S. residential children ages 6-17 diagnosed with autism (out of every 1000 children). Image by Eubulides.

Autism and Induced Birth Link: Further Research Necessary to Understand the Association

50 to 70 percent of women who undergo labor induction are administered exogenous oxytocin, a hormone that goes by the brand name of Pitocin. Among women who begin labor spontaneously, caregivers augment approximately 30 to 50 per cent with Pitocin.

Dr. Grotegut said, “Our study focused on the association of labor induction and augmentation with autism. As we utilized birth record data, we are unable to determine which of these women actually received exogenous oxytocin, and if so, how much.”

Oxytocin is known as the love hormone. Intimacy and attachment, as well as social behavior, cognitive function and gender roles are thought to come under its influence. This research suggests that exposure to Pitocin during labor induction/augmentation may have a detrimental effect on early brain development, especially in male children.

Autism: Genetic Tendencies

Although no biomarker or test can confirm it, many experts believe heredity and environmental factors may contribute to the development of autism. And while the study used a diagnosis of autism disorder, there’s a whole spectrum of related conditions, including Asperger’s syndrome and a non-specified category called pervasive developmental disorder. Controversy exists about what signs and symptoms should be included, and not all children who are diagnosed within the spectrum will exhibit characteristics to the same degree.

Treatment for autism is aimed at improving the child’s ability to function, and early intervention is thought to improve outcomes. Special diets and supplements may also help some children with autism.

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Induction or Augmentation vs. Nature: Talk Over Options

When you’re contemplating labor induction or augmentation procedures, your best course of action is to be educated and to get involved. Talk with your doctor, nurses, midwife or doula about your options. Then you can make a safe and sensible decision for you and your baby – a decision in which the benefits really do outweigh the risks.


Gregory, S., et. al., Association of Autism With Induced or Augmented Childbirth in North Carolina Birth Record (1990-1998) and Education Research (1997-2007). (2013). Journal of American Pediatrics. Accessed August 25, 2013.

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  1. Ross Lucas Unger says:

    This is an important contribution! Thank You, Ross

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