Birth with Synthetic Oxytocin and Risk of Childhood Emotional Disorders: A Danish Population-based Study

J Affect Disord. 2020 Sep 1:274:112-117. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.04.067. Epub 2020 May 16.


Background: Concerns have been raised that synthetic oxytocin, a widely used obstetric tool for labor induction and augmentation, may have deleterious effects on the neuropsychological development of children. Few studies have examined the relationship between oxytocin-stimulated labor and emotional disorders.

Methods: We conducted a nationwide register-based cohort study including 677,629 singletons born in Denmark in the years 2000 to 2012 and followed through 2016 (median age = 10.6 years). Data on oxytocin-stimulation were obtained from the Danish Medical Birth Register. Cases of emotional disorders - anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, mood or traumatic stress disorders or a redeemed prescription for a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor - were identified using Danish patient and prescription registries.

Results: Oxytocin was used to stimulate 31% of births, and oxytocin-stimulated labor was not associated with childhood emotional disorders (HR = 1.05, 95% CI 0.99, 1.11) after adjustment for maternal history of psychopathology, antidepressants during pregnancy, cohabitation status, highest educational attainment, smoking status during pregnancy, birth year, and indications for labor stimulation. The crude cox model was also small and close to unity (HR = 1.09, 95% CI 1.03, 1.15).

Limitations: About 50% of our population had reached the age of 10 years, but the outcome included disorders with later average debut ages. Oxytocin dosage levels are not recorded in the registers.

Conclusions: Our small effect size estimates suggest that perinatal synthetic oxytocin does not contribute to the development of emotional disorders. Current evidence does not warrant revision of guidelines for the use of oxytocin in obstetrics.

Keywords: adolescent; anxiety disorder; child; depression; hormone; parturition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Oxytocin*
  • Pregnancy
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Registries


  • Oxytocin