Pitocin: A Controversial Childbirth Topic

By JustMommies staff

Pitocin is a man made synthetic drug form of Oxytocin, a hormone made in the body that causes the uterus to contract. Doctors generally use Pitocin to start labor and speed up the labor process. Pitocin is also used to help the body expel the placenta or stop heavy bleeding.

Natural Labor Progression:

When labor starts without the help of medical intervention, the body secretes Oxytocin. Oxytocin is responsible for true labor contractions. Generally, the body works like a finely tuned machine, secreting the right amount of Oxytocin needed at each stage of labor. When a woman experiences natural labor, each contraction comes in a rhythm, gradually getting stronger and closer together.

Pitocin and the Labor Process:

Pitocin is administered through an IV line. Depending on the doctor, a woman may experience a gradual increase in the IV flow rate of the Pitocin or a very rapid rate from the start. Since IV administration of Pitocin can not mimic the way the body secretes Oxytocin, labor contractions usually come on very rapidly. Along with rapid onset of labor, the contractions are usually much stronger and closer together than what a woman might be experiencing if the labor was natural. Women who experience labor with Pitocin will need to be hooked up to a fetal monitor. Since labor does come on stronger, faster and with fewer breaks in between contractions, there is an increased risk for fetal distress. Each time you have a contraction, blood flow and therefore, oxygen supply, is decreased to the fetus. Women who experience labor with Pitocin will also often find themselves confined to a bed. This decreases a woman’s ability to deal with painful labor contractions.

Many women find that labor with Pitocin is so difficult to manage that they require the use of pain medications such as an epidural, even if their birth plan was to go without it.

Pitocin to induce labor sometimes doesn’t work. If a woman’s uterus just is not ready for an induction, the drug may not work.  

Positives of Pitocin:

Some women just do not go into labor without help. This is especially true for women who find themselves 1-2 weeks past their due dates, with no signs of labor.

Sometimes conditions such as Pre-eclampsia and other disorders require labor to begin before the body is ready. This helps to ensure the health of the mother and/or child. Pitocin allows the labor to begin so that a woman can attempt to deliver without needing a C-section. Pitocin also allows women the opportunity to plan their labors. This is helpful for women who need to give birth at a certain time. This can also allow for loved ones to be present at that special time.

Some women want to go through labor as comfortably and pain free as possible. With Pitocin, labor can be started artificially and an epidural can be given to make them more comfortable. Pitocin is also helpful when it comes to making progress with a stalled labor. Further, Pitocin can also be given after birth to encourage the cervix to clamp down. This will help stop excessive bleeding.

The issue of Pitocin use is a hot topic among internet parenting message boards. There are those who believe Pitocin is used merely as a convenience for the mother, without taking into consideration any risks it may pose to the baby. Many believe it is overused. There are others who believe Pitocin is a legitimate birthing choice. Regardless of which viewpoint you agree with, the fact will always remain that the best choice is an informed one.