Labor Augmentation Doesn’t Boost ADHD Risk

HealthDay News  — Mothers who get an extra boost during labor with the medication oxytocin don’t face a higher risk of having a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new study says.

If a woman giving birth stops progressing during labor, she might receive oxytocin (brand name: Pitocin) as “augmentation.” This drug is a synthetic version of the oxytocin hormone involved in birth. It helps push labor along, increasing the likelihood that the cervix will continue dilating. But the hormone may have other effects, too.

Mette Juhl, PhD, an associate professor of midwifery at 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 more than 546,000 Danish mothers.

Then they compared the 26% of children born to mothers who received oxytocin for labor augmentation to the children of mothers who did not.

The results, published online in the journal Pediatrics, showed that 0.9% 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 study found.

The original concern that ADHD and oxytocin might be linked arose from nonhuman studies, study author Mette Juhl explained.

“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.


Henriksen L, et al. Medical Augmentation of Labor and the Risk of ADHD in Offspring: A Population-Based Study. Pediatrics. 2015; doi:10.1542/peds.2014-1542.