This post was written by Juna Advisor & Labor Delivery Nurse, Leisel Teen aka @mommy.labornurse.
By the time you’re nearing Week 40 of your pregnancy, ANY mom can relate to the hashtag, #getthisbabyouttame, am I right? Who can blame you, you’ve been pregnant for 9 months, and you’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of your sweet baby!
Inductions with the use of Pitocin are becoming more and more popular, and they are often used at this time: You’re past your due date. This, of course, isn’t the only reason inductions are necessary, but it’s certainly the most common!
Oxytocin is a hormone that your body produces naturally during labor, and Pitocin is the brand name of synthetic oxytocin that is often used to induce and/or augment labor – it causes your uterus to contract, aka contractions!
Pitocin certainly can get a bad rap, and there are certainly some myths circulating around about this very powerful, widely-used drug.
For example, many women suggest that Pitocin contractions cause significantly more pain than natural labor contractions, according to ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) that can depend on a few things! The dose used, and how your body responds to Pitocin during labor, to name a few!
Another widely-believed claim is that Pitocin increases your odds of having a C-section. This simply isn’t true either, according to multiple studies. A few studies did actually show a weak link between Pitocin use during labor and decreased breastfeeding rates, these studies didn’t account for mom’s choice – aka, whether or not you actually planned to breastfeed in the first place! The same exact studies also failed to consider the fact that there are multiple other factors and barriers that might prevent a person from breastfeeding that have no correlation with Pitocin (age of gestation, other medical issues for baby or you etc.).
These myths, like “Pitocin is dangerous for your baby!” not only lack real evidence, they can also be really harmful! To learn more about some of the common myths vs facts related to Pitocin, and to put your brain at ease if you need it to safely give birth, keep reading!
MYTH: Pitocin is dangerous for your baby
“Is it dangerous??” I think that’s the most popular question most moms ask when they are facing an induction!
You may question whether the use of Pitocin presents any big risks for baby. Pitocin’s greatest danger to your unborn baby is fluctuations in their heart rate due to uterine tachysystole, a condition in which you experience more than six uterine contractions in a span of 10 minutes. The risk is higher if administration of Pitocin is too quick or in large doses.
According to one study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pitocin uterine hyper-stimulation can lead to a decrease in your baby’s heart rate and decreased saturation of oxygen.
Recommendations from ACOG suggest that these risks can be reduced by carefully watching you and your baby during Pitocin use (aka, continuous fetal monitoring), and reducing the volume or duration of the medication if appropriate.
There are many safeguards in place. Labor and delivery nurses have been trained on the use of Pitocin in labor (and how to titrate it correctly), and what to do if this situation should arise.
MYTH: Pitocin is not necessary
The reality is, often labor induction with the use of Pitocin is medically required and safer than waiting for yourself to go into labor. There are many instances your provider may suggest induction for your safety or your baby’s safety, including preeclampsia, fetal distress, premature rupture of the membranes, low rates of amniotic fluid, maternal hypertension, or going beyond your due date, according to ACOG. Inductions are very often with very good intention!
MYTH: Pitocin causes more painful contractions
Will they differ from spontaneous contractions? Maybe.
Contractions with the use of Pitocin are not technically different chemically from spontaneous contractions of labor in any way. Since Pitocin is given intravenously, though, and each person reacts differently to the drug, it CAN induce contractions that are more painful or frequent than contractions during spontaneous labor, but it’s not destined to do so.
Pitocin is used to induce spontaneously occurring contractions. And again, the volume of pitocin that you get will be controlled by your nurse to ensure that the contractions are within the range of regular contractions.
Pitocin causes c-sections
According to ACOG, because women undergoing labor induction tend to have a higher likelihood of having a C-section, than those having spontaneous birth, it was generally believed that induction itself raises the probability of having a C-section. This, it turns out, is not always the case.
The risk of C-section birth was actually lower with labor induction when Pitocin was used vs spontaneous labor, according to the recent, infamous ARRIVE study. There have been various studies refuting this claim, and some studies that agree. At the end of the day, there are many factors involved when looking at this issue, and the debate is still ongoing. We can’t say with 100% certainty that Pitocin is associated with an increase in C-section birth.
MYTH: You must have an epidural if you’re induced with Pitocin
Absolutely not! Another very false correlation. Although we’ve already covered the SOME women may experience more painful contractions with the use of Pitocin – having an epidural during labor is certainly not required JUST because Pitocin is used. At the end of the day, you can choose whichever form of pain control you desire during your labor, Pitocin or not!
MYTH: Pitocin will interfere with your chances to breastfeed
It’s not at all clear if there is any link between Pitocin and breastfeeding, given what some “natural” birth proponents might claim. Although a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found a correlation between the use of Pitocin and a reduced chance of breastfeeding, the research did not justify whether a mother medically needed Pitocin or whether she wanted to even breastfeed personally in the first place.
Additionally, more recents literature released from the Journal of Breastfeeding Medicine in 2017 found that there was absolutely no difference in rates between moms who had Pitocin and those that did not. The bottom line is that during labor, many women get Pitocin and then breastfeed. Definitely do not worry that you won’t be able to breastfeed if you require Pitocin during labor!
Are your minds at ease after this article? As you can see, Pitocin isn’t as scary as many women make it out to be!
Talk to your provider during your pregnancy if you have any questions regarding your induction.