Companion article ~ Pitocin Induction & increased rate of autism ~ Newsweek July 2000

by faithgibson on August 30, 2013

The cover story for the July 31, 2000 NEWSWEEK Magazine

“Understanding Autism: Why more kids and families are facing the challenges of “Mind-blindness”

“Dr. Eric Hollander of New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine noticed several years ago that 60% of the autistic patients in his clinic has been exposed in the womb to Pitocin, the synthetic version of a brain chemical (oxitocin) that helps induce labor.

That could be significant as only **20% of all birth are assisted by Pitocin.”

** the current rate in induction is

by Jeofferey Cowley:

This article began with the personal accounts of  several families whose children had been diagnosed with autism or related autism disorders. The parents’ grief over the lost dream of a ‘normal’ healthy child, and the burden on the family unit were sobering.

The Newsweek article identified children suffering from the classic form as lacking normal language ability and devoid of social impulses. These kids seem not to have, or at least not to make no use of, the normal childhood imagination and the ‘pretend play’ that turns a broken stick into an imaginary gun, or a blanket thrown over a card table into a mysterious cave.

Children with autism rarely ever engage in interactive play with other kids. Instead they fixate obsessively on things — car keys, license plate numbers, a particular TV program — all to the exclusion of actual toys or friends.

Obviously the social and educational problems for these children make life very difficult for them, and try the patience of parents, siblings, caregivers and teachers.   It also is very costly to society in time, money and other recourses.

Then the article turns to the number and magnitude of the problem, in particular the recent  steep rise in the cases. Here is an excerpt:

“Autism strikes every sector of society and its recognized incidence is exploding. In California, the number of kids receiving state services rose by 556 percent during the “90s. Some experts see a growing epidemic in these numbers, while others believe they reflect new awareness of an existing problem. Either way, autism is not thought to affect one person in 500, making it more common than Downs syndrome or childhood cancer.

This is not rare disorder  — its a pressing public-health problem” says Dr. Marie Bristol Power of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

As for the cause or causes of autism, the NEWSWEEK author described it

“as a profound mystery”.

He goes on to say that:

“… the pace of discovery is accelerating. Scientists are gaining tantalizing insight in the autistic mind, with its odd capacity for genius as well as detachment. And though the suspected causes range from genetic mutations to viruses and toxic chemical, we know know it’s a brain-based developmental disorder and NOT the result of poor parenting (accepted ‘wisdom’ as recently as the 1970s).”

“… toxic substances are not off the hook. Many babies exposed to thalidomide during the late ’50s suffered from autism as well as birth defects and oner substances could turn out to have similar effects.Dr. Eric Hollander of New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine noticed several years ago that 60% of the autistic patients in his clinic has been exposed in the womb to Pitocin, the synthetic version of a brain chemical (oxitocin) that helps induce labor. That could be significant as only 20% of all birth are assisted by Pitocin.”

This last comment abut the role of Pitocin to induce labor got my attention. I worked as an L&D nurse from 1962 to 1976, where is was first exposed to Pitocn was a very new drug introduced in 1953 by the pharmaceutical company Parke Davis. At that time, induction or speeding up labor with drugs extremely rare. In fact, I personally never care for a patient whose labor was being induced or augmented with the IV administration of Pitocin.

At that time, late 1960s and early 70s, Pitocin as a medicinal liquid was being used as nose drops to speed up a labor (technically ‘augment’). The intended effect was increase the frequency and strength of her contractions by having the L&D nurse put a drop in each side of the mother’s nose and wait for it to be slowly absorbed through her mucus membranes. This was repeated ever 20 minutes until the contraction got too close together or the baby was born, which ever came first.

The drug same drug company (Parke Davis) also made a tablet called “bucal” Pitocin which was a small pink lozenge about the size of an aspirin table but longer and more narrow. It was to be held by the mother in the space between her cheek and her gums, and again, the drug was slowly absorbed by the mucus membranes of the mouth and repeated until the labor was speeding along.

However, the way to speed up labor preferred by the doctors at our hospital was to have the nurse inject very small amounts of Pitocin — 1/2 drop to at most 3 drops — subcutaneous, that is just under the skin. This also was repeated every 20 minutes until the contraction were every 2 1/2 minutes and lasted at least a full minute or even a bit longer.

Then in 1974 there was a sudden changed the form and frequency of Pitocin use. Interestingly enough, it was brought on by a new technology — the invention of angiocaths for giving IVs. These tiny small plastic tubes took the place of the 1″ inch metal needles that was the standard way to give IV fluids. Leaving a very sharp metal needle in the crook of a patient’s arm could cause them to be very injured if the simply forgot and bent their elbow by mistake. To prevent this, nurses had to strap down the arm of these patients to an IV board with swaths of adhesive tape so they won’t hurt themselves.

and distribution by the medical supply companies

I’d say that about 25% of the laboring mothers in my hospital — at least during waking hours — were given some amount of Pitocin to speed up their labors. However, induction in the 1970s was still extremely rare.

This changed suddenly in 1984 a lawsuit against an obstetrician for ‘failing to induce’ a patient of his before who was over 41 weeks pregnant when she finally went into spontaneous labor. For no obvious reasons the baby did not do well (don’t remember if it died or was neurologically damaged), but the lawsuit alledged that the baby’s problem was the result of a post-date pregnancy.

Plaintiff lawyers told the jury that the baby was fine and healthy on the 7th day after the due date and IF ONLY the doctor had induced her on the very first day of the 41st week (8 days after the due date), the baby would have been born healthy and everyone would have been happy. Apparently this seemed logical to the jury, which made one of the largest malpractice awards ever to date in regard to obstetrical settlements.

Suddenly, obstetricians were all scheduling inductions on the 8th day after the due date for every pregnant patient who had not already given birth by then.