One more reason not to get induced...

Today I received the latest edition of DONA's International Doula publication, which I love. So I gave myself a much-needed break from mommy-hood (while Lucy was napping, of course) and sat out on the back deck with a glass of water and my new magazine, for what I thought would be a nice, relaxing little respite.

But after skimming through the opening pages, I came to the cover story, "Is Pitocin Associated with Childhood Autism?" and my mental state of relaxation quickly shifted to shock and alarm, and increased with each paragraph as I read.

I learned that in 1980, only one in 5,000 children was diagnosed with autism. Each year, this number has been climbing rapidly until today, when one in 110 children are diagnosed with the disorder. Shocking, I know. Extensive studies have been done on the possibility of a connection between vaccines, genetics, and environmental toxins and autism, but only recently have they begun to address the possibility that autism could be caused or triggered by the ever-increasing medical management of birth.

A letter written by an association of midwives was published in Autism Today, which stated that "...virtually 100% of medically managed births are subjected to a high level of pharmaceutical interventions that have never been approved for use in fetuses. It seems prudent to research the possible association with pharmaceutically augmented labors [with Pitocin] in an attempt to discover the cause of the rising tide of autistic disorders. It may be necessary to amend our current obstetrical practices..." Ya think!?

Also in the letter was cited the complete nonexistence of autism in children who were born under the midwives' care, with no medication during their mothers' labors (the practice is 20-years old).

The article went on to discuss further the probable connection between Pitocin and autism by addressing the fact that natural oxytocin is also called the "love hormone," and autism seems to be the absence of the ability to express or experience feeling, empathy, etc. In an article published in Newsweek in 1996, Dr. Eric Hollander (Director of an Autism Disorder program in NY) says that "Most of the mothers of patients we see have had Pitocin-induced labor," and that "Pitocin somehow messes up the newborn's oxytocin system, producing the social phobias of autism."

Actually, oxytocin is currently being used in autistic adult patients in a nasal spray. Benefits of the medication are an increase in "sensitivity, generosity, and trust," as well as inscreased "eye contact, facial recognition, social cues, and identification of emotions," which further demonstrates the hormone's connection with emotion and love. Research has already proven that autistic people have lower levels of oxytocin than normal.

Here's one more quote and then I'll wrap this up... Dr. Michel Odent, author and childbirth expert, states "we are learning that, among humans, the period surrounding birth is a period of dramatic reorganization of central oxytocin binding. Artificial induction of labour creates situations that undoubtedly interfere with the development and the reorganization of the oxytocin system in such a critical period." The information we glean from this quote, and the countless other studies and statistics on interventions during labor and birth, should be a serious reminder to us all that the natural birth process should not be tampered with unless absolutely necessary.

Now I know that this is pretty scary information, and probably almost every mother reading this has had Pitocin given intravenously at some point in her labor, either during or after birth. I also know that sometimes the use of Pitocin is necessary for a healthy outcome, and by all means the benefits of its use sometimes outweigh the risks. The last thing I want is for you mothers to feel bad, or guilty, or fearful for your child's future. But I DO hope that this encourages you to continue becoming informed and empowered for future births, and that you'll be able to spread the word to other mamas-to-be so that they can make the best choices for themselves and their babies. And by all means, get a doula, as their presence during labor has been proven to make labor progress more rapidly, minimizing the risk of your need for augmentation by Pitocin.