Behavior & Development • May 05, 2015

Can labor and delivery drugs cause your child to have ADHD?

Good news for moms and babies: pitocin didn’t cause your child’s ADHD.  A large medical research study published this month shows no link between the drug oxytocin (also known as pitocin) and ADHD, despite a smaller study from 2011 that suggested that ADHD could be related to use of this drug during labor.

No more mom guilt– you did the right thing by accepting drugs during labor and delivery.

Over the past decade there has been a lot of speculation that induced deliveries and drugs used in labor and delivery can cause a child to have behavioral and developmental disorders, including ADHD.  It’s one more reason why expectant moms are planning drug-free deliveries, and one more reason why moms feel guilty when their doctors recommend medications in labor.

Oxytocin, better known by its brand name pitocin, is often used to induce or speed up labor.  An estimated 50 percent of moms delivering in the United States are treated with pitocin.

A 2011 study showed that babies who were exposed to pitocin had an increased risk of subsequent childhood ADHD.  A much larger study published this month looked at more than 500,000 deliveries augmented with pitocin and found no association.

The results showed that less than 1 percent of babies exposed to pitocin during labor later developed ADHD.  Children exposed to oxytocin were no more likely to have ADHD than those not exposed.

The hormone oxytocin has many functions and can affect social and behavioral function.  So it’s a reasonable hypothesis that exposure to synthetic oxytocin during delivery could cause later behavioral problems.  Early studies were split on this issue, but this is the first large study and it shows no association.

This is very good news for moms and babies, because pitocin can be essential for speeding up labor and preventing infection in both mom and baby.  The 2011 study was causing some moms to request that pitocin not be given, but this also put both mom and baby at risk for prolonged labor and infection.

Are you parenting a child with ADHD?  Here are six tips to make your life easier.