Pitocin (Oxytocin)

Excerpts from The Birth Book written by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N.:

The Purpose of Pitocin
During labor your body naturally produces a contraction-enhancing hormone called oxytocin.  The fetus also secretes oxytocin, which passes through the placenta and contributes to the pool of hormones circulating through the mother’s body.  Pitocin, a synthetic version of oxytocin, is used to induce contractions or speed up a labor that is dragging.  In theory, pitocin is used only when it is necessary to induce labor or stimulate stronger contractions for the sake of mother or baby’s health.  In practice, however, pit is used liberally as a sort of labor tonic, even though its usefulness and its safety are open to question.

The Problem with Pitocin
There is a time and place for everything.  During natural labor your body produces oxytocin on an as-needed basis – the right dose at the right time.  Oxytocin is normally produced in spurts, and both the amount of oxytocin secreted and the sensitivity of the uterus to its effects increase during labor.  Artificial oxytocin – also known as a pit drip – is administered intravenously through an automatic infusion pump at a steady rate.  Because the way the uterus receives its hormonal boost is unnatural, the contractions pit produces are different from the ones the body would produce on its own.  Pit-produced contractions are stronger, longer, and closer together.  This different type of contraction can be intolerable for the mother and baby.

Studies show that nipple stimulation and walking during labor may work as well as, or even better than, the synthetic stuff.  This is where a midwife’s approach to birth can help.  Because midwives are not licensed to use drugs, they have learned more alternatives to pitocin.  Because most obstetricians are not wise to the ways of midwifery, they are quicker to intervene with drugs.  This is another situation where birthing would be better if obstetricians and midwives could labor together.

Delivery of the placenta can last from five to thirty minutes or so, depending on how quickly the birth attendant wants to wrap up the birth scene.  Within a few minutes after delivery of your baby your uterus resumes contracting to expel the placenta.  Your first skin-to-skin and eye contact with your baby releases oxytocin.  Oxytocin is also released when the baby sucks at your breast.  In active management, the doctor may feel that nature is competent but slow so the mother receives an injection of pitocin and ergot to contract her uterus.  Some doctors believe that every woman will bleed to death if they don’t intervene and give pitocin.  But for the majority of women with uncomplicated deliveries, routine use of this medication is unnecessary.  The body can do its job safely and you can assist by encouraging the baby to latch on and allowing him to suck as long as he wants.  If you don’t participate in the decision about the management of your third stage of labor, and you are delivering in the hospital, you are likely to get the active management treatement automatically.  The incidence of retained placental fragments needing later removal with consequent infection is higher with active management.

It seems to me that the use of Pitocin, at any time, is a doctor’s way of rushing everything along … in our fast-paced society, it is no wonder that this has become ‘standard practice.’

~ by cmb0414 on April 13, 2010.

One Response to “Pitocin (Oxytocin)”

  1. I’ll have to look it up some more, but something I read recently talked about a connection between Pitocin and autism…

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