As a practicing OB/GYN, I have seen a lot of misconceptions and fears surrounding using Pitocin during childbirth. There is so much information out there, and sometimes it’s challenging for us gals to know what’s fact or fiction. If you’re pregnant, this is a critical topic. You deserve to know the truth to make an informed decision about your birth.
Before we dive in, I’ll start with the false claim (of course, made without references) that “the use of Pitocin today is linked to increased cesarean section births.” This is false. Let’s start from the beginning.
What is Pitocin?
First and foremost, let’s talk about what this drug is. You’ve heard of oxytocin? Pitocin is the synthetic version. It’s a hormone that helps your cervix dilate and causes your uterus to contract during labor. It’s typically introduced into the body via an IV and is administered in small doses, gradually increasing as necessary to keep labor progressing. For some women, it’s is an essential part of the birthing process because it helps their labor progress when things are not progressing as expected. It can also prevent complications like postpartum bleeding, which can be life-threatening.
Does Pitocin make labor more painful?
One of the biggest misconceptions about Pitocin is that it will make your labor more painful. While it can make contractions more intense, it won’t necessarily make them any more painful. Labor pain is caused by the baby physically moving through the birth canal. The contractions themselves are just a response to the baby’s movement. If the contractions are too strong, you can usually request a break from the medication or ask for pain relief options like an epidural.
Does Pitocin increase cesarean births?
A common myth about Pitocin use is that it will increase your chance of needing a C-section. This is false. We use Pitocin for a few reasons:
- Induction of labor - Due to medical indications or elective reasons after 39 weeks.
- Augmentation of labor (helping labor progress) – Due to abnormal labor progression – either protracted (slowed progress) or arrested (no progress) labor. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists publishes guidelines for these definitions based on the latest data from the Consortium on Safe Labor.
- Prevention and treatment of postpartum hemorrhage.
The truth is that using Pitocin alone does not increase the risk of C-section. However, if you are being induced and your body is not ready for labor, the Pitocin may not be as effective, leading to the need for a C-section. In these cases, it’s important to remember that the primary concern is your and your baby’s health and safety. A C-section may be necessary to ensure a safe delivery.
What are the side effects?
It’s understandable to worry about the potential side effects of Pitocin, but the truth is that they are usually very mild. Some women may experience nausea or vomiting, and using Pitocin may cause the baby’s heart rate to increase initially. But these side effects are usually temporary and not harmful to you or your baby. Your medical team will closely monitor you and your baby’s vitals throughout the induction process to ensure that everything remains safe and healthy.
Does it impact bonding?
Lastly, many women worry that using Pitocin during labor interferes with bonding with their baby. The truth is that bonding is an incredibly complex and multifaceted process influenced by various factors, including the circumstances of your birth. While it’s true that bonding usually starts immediately after birth, it is a process that continues over time. Pitocin use during labor will not prevent you from bonding with your baby after delivery.
Remember, the WHO classifies oxytocin as a safe, essential medication for birth.