Pitocin is the most commonly used drug to induce labor in pregnant women. Before a pregnant woman decides to use pitocin to induce labor, it is important that she research the risks and benefits thoroughly to ensure she is making an informed decision regarding the care she receives for herself and her unborn baby.
What is pitocin?
Pitocin is the trademarked name of a synthetic (artificial) version of oxytocin, the hormone naturally produced by the woman’s body that causes uterine contractions. It may also be referred to as syntocinon or simply oxytocin.
How is pitocin used?
Pitocin is a clear, liquid medication that is administered intravenously. The medication is set up to be administered, usually with a saline solution, through an IV. Every woman responds to pitocin differently and the dose required may vary greatly from woman to woman. For this reason, the woman’s contractions and the baby’s heart rate will need to be monitored using either external or internal fetal monitoring and depending on the readings, her pitocin dosage may then be adjusted.
What are some reasons pitocin may be needed?
Medical issues may arise in late pregnancy that require immediate delivery of the baby. Some of these conditions include toxemia, intrauterine growth restriction, or other medical conditions that pose a threat to the mother or baby if the pregnancy continues.
Other times, a pitocin induction may be performed for elective reasons, such as scheduling issues with the woman or physician, or simply the woman’s desire to meet her baby or end the discomfort caused by pregnancy.
What are the advantages of pitocin?
Pitocin may help prevent a cesarean in cases where medical reasons indicate an immediate delivery is necessary.
A pitocin induction may relieve some of the anxiety related to waiting for the big day, since the mother usually schedules her induction ahead of time, giving her time to prepare since she knows exactly when she should be delivering
Pitocin has a relatively short half life, allowing the dosage to be adjusted and lowered without having to wait extended periods of time for the effects to wear off.
What are the disadvantages of pitocin?
If the woman’s cervix is not already dilated and effaced adequately, a pitocin induction has a high chance of failing. This failure often leads to a cesarean section due to fetal distress, caused by the pitocin.
Contractions caused by pitocin are often much stronger with higher peaks and even double peaks, causing the woman a great deal more pain than naturally occurring contractions. The intensity of these pitocin-induced contractions may cause uterine over stimulation and may even cause uterine rupture, a life-threatening condition to both the mother and baby that requires an immediate cesarean.
Because pitocin-induced contractions are more painful than natural contractions, it is much more likely the woman may request pain medications or regional anesthetics in labor, which have their own risks and benefits.
Pitocin increases the chance of the baby being malpositioned, which may lead to a cesarean. Pitocin also increases the chance of fetal distress and dystocia. Pitocin may also be related to premature placental seperation, cervical laceration, fetal asphyxia, neonatal hypoxia and iatrogenic (doctor caused) prematurely if the dates are not accurate.
Vanderlaan, Jennifer. “Pitocin – Labor Induction.” Birthing Naturally. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
“Pitocin FAQ – Childbirth.org.” Childbirth Dot Org – Where Childbirth Meets Your Life. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.