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Oxytocin in Labor Not Linked With Later ADHD in Child

Previous research with animals had suggested a possible connection

MONDAY, Feb. 9, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Augmentation of labor with the medication oxytocin does not seem to raise the risk of having a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a study published online Feb. 9 in Pediatrics.

Mette Juhl, Ph.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of midwifery at the Metropolitan University College in Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues looked at children who had received either an ADHD diagnosis or a prescription for an ADHD medication among 546,146 Danish mothers. The authors then compared the 26 percent of children born to mothers who received oxytocin for labor augmentation to the children of mothers who did not.

The original concern that ADHD and oxytocin might be linked arose from nonhuman studies, Juhl explained to HealthDay. “Animal studies have found that oxytocin is passed on from mother to fetus via the placental barrier, and that the fetal brain has been affected by exposure to oxytocin,” said Juhl. It was possible, she said, that oxytocin might have some direct effect on the brain of the baby being born. “According to the U.S. Institute for Safe Medication Practices, oxytocin is a drug that should be used with caution,” Juhl said. “In light of the extensive use of labor augmentation in healthy young women, it is important to find out if augmentation treatment is associated with adverse effects, such as ADHD.”

The results showed that 0.9 percent of the children exposed to oxytocin had been diagnosed with or treated for ADHD. Overall, however, children exposed to oxytocin were no more likely to have ADHD than those not exposed, the researchers found.

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