Pitocin is the synthetic version of oxytocin. Oxytocin itself is a hormone that your body naturally produces to start contractions during labor. But you may know oxytocin by a different name-the “love” hormone. Oxytocin is the same hormone that our bodies release when we snuggle up with loved ones or bond socially.
As a medication, however, Pitocin is used before, during, or after birth for a number of different reasons including1:
- Inducing labor or strengthening labor contractions during childbirth
- To help control bleeding after childbirth
- To stimulate uterine contractions in a woman with an incomplete or threatened miscarriage
How is Pitocin given?
Pitocin is injected into a vein through an IV. You will receive this injection in a hospital setting usually for one of the reasons listed above. Once given, your healthcare staff will monitor your contractions and other vital signs. They will also monitor your baby’s heart rate for any effects it has on them as well.
What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before receiving Pitocin?
You should not receive Pitocin if you have ever had an allergic reaction to it. If given this medication in a previous pregnancy and had an allergic reaction, always inform your doctor.
Additionally, to make sure oxytocin is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Diabetes or high blood pressure
- A history of cervical cancer
- A history of severe infection in your uterus
- If you have ever had surgery on your cervix or uterus (including a prior C-section)
- A history of difficult labor because you have a small pelvis
What are the benefits of Pitocin?
The obvious benefit of Pitocin is to push along the delivery of your baby if it is taking a long time to kick-start. If you have been in labor for hours but are still not progressing quickly enough then Pitocin is of great benefit. Lastly, Pitocin can stop heavy bleeding after the delivery to minimize blood loss.
What are the risks of Pitocin?
Like any medication, Pitocin has some known risks alongside its benefits. Before Pitocin is administered, your doctor or nurse should explain the reason they would like to give you Pitocin but they should also explain the risks in detail. These include2:
- Overstimulation of the uterus
- Rupture of the uterus
- Fetal distress
- Drop in fetal heart rate
Many of these risks can be overcome by careful monitoring of your vital signs (and the baby’s) which is what your healthcare provider will do after administering the drug. However, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t feel comfortable with Pitocin, it is okay to ask for more information about its risks and benefits or to ask about other alternatives.
1- emedicinehealth. Medications and Drugs. https://www.emedicinehealth.com/drug-oxytocin/article_em.htm
2- Healthline.com. Pitocin Induction: The Risks and Benefits. Medically reviewed by Katie Mena, MD on October 12, 2016 — Written by Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/pitocin-induction#risks