Autism Potentially Linked to Common Labor Drug

There seems to be a lot more to the choice on whether to have an epidural or not. When an epidural is administered, there is an oxytocin deficiency. That feel good hormone that is essentially a natural pain reliever isn't released as it would be if an epidural wasn't given. It makes sense since the epi is a block.


But some new science is suggesting that the block of oxytocin could affect the brains of newborns -- and could be a contributing factor to autism.

The French National Institute for Health and Medical Research found that when oxytocin isn't released like it typically would during birth, chloride ions remain really high -- they are high in the womb but drop when a child is born thanks to the oxytocin being a natural diuretic. This high "salt" concentration can lead to brain disorders and autism. 

The research was conducted on mice, and those involved in what they are calling a ground-breaking study see the connection in the way we birth. Scientist Yehezkel Ben-Ari said:

During birth and delivery there is an extremely abrupt loss of chloride triggered by the release of oxytocin during labour. If you block oxytocin during delivery you block this protective mechanism. Chloride levels during delivery are determinants of the occurrence of autism spectrum disorder.

Other evidence supports this as well. There was a study in 2012 where 50 autistic children aged 3 to 11 were given bumentanide, a diuretic drug which reduces chloride ions aka "salt". Their autism symptoms improved during the treatment. 

More from The StirEpidurals Can Make Labor Last Longer

Ben-Ari also spoke of the diuretic given to pregnant mice. "We showed that if you deliver diuretic to the mother before birth and delivery, then the offspring have so to speak been cured… whereas if you block oxytocin, you get autism." He added that it's not as simple as treated mothers with diuretic drugs -- it's not "practical or safe" for everyone. Still, this is a huge development and one they can hopefully study more, learn more, potentially get more answers. 

This isn't to chastise women who have epidurals. I had one. I know many women who have and also have typical children. But what exactly is going on? What are these drugs we take doing to our children? What are the side effects that perhaps haven't been realized? This goes for every drug, taken at any time. 

What do you think of this study? Does it concern you?


Image via Tyler Olson/shutterstock

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