Monday, September 20, 2010

All about Induction Part 3 - Pitocin

By far the most commonly used drug on the maternity floor, Pitocin is a drug used to start labor contractions or increase their intensity. I doubt many women in America have deliver a baby in the last decade who haven't at least heard the word. Pitocin, for better or worse has become a part of childbirth in American hospitals. 

What is Pitocin?

Pitocin is a synthetic oxytocin.  Oxytocin is a hormone that a woman's body naturally produces that cause contractions to begin.  When oxytocin isn't doing the job to get labor going, for whatever reason, then hospitals frequently use pitocin to get this process started.  This medical intervention is usually used in order to get labor started and to speed up the labor process.

When a woman's body makes oxytocin, it is secreted in bursts.  This creates a natural flow.  When pitocin is administered in a hospital, the woman has to be placed on an intravenous pump that gives her a steady flow of pitocin.  These contractions are quantitatively and qualitatively different than the ones she would experience on her own.

Benefits of Pitocin

  • Pitocin does tend to make labor shorter. This is a huge bonus for many women exhausted by labor.
  • Using synthetic oxytocin to stimulate labor if the membranes have been ruptured has cut down on infection rates.
  • Contractions can be "controlled" by adjusting the dose of medication.
  • Can be vital in helping stop excessive bleeding post birth, and can assist with placenta delivery. 

Drawbacks to Pitocin

Risks of Pitocin:
Contractions tend to be more painful and the mother is more likely to request pain medication or an epidural
Pitocin needs to be given by IV and the mother/baby will have to be constantly monitored, which makes it much hard to move around
Increases the chance of having a ruptured uterus
Increases the chance of the baby being in a bad position for delivery
Baby is more likely to have a depressed fetal heart rate pattern
More likely to need a cesarean
Increases risk of fetal distress, because there is less oxygen availableThe choice to utilize pitocin is a personal, and often controversial one. It is not a decision to be taken lightly, as it does carry significant risks, however it can also help women avoid infection and C-Sections. Be sure to talk openly with your care-provider before your birth about how and when he or she typically uses pitocin. If it is suggested as an option during labor, feel free to ask about alternatives so you can explore all of your options and make the best possible education decision.

*The information expressed here are my own views and are not intended to be substituted for medical advice. 

No comments:

Post a Comment