Pitocin Induction: Understand Their Risks and Benefits

Pitocin Induction

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Pitocin induction, in one line, is the induction method recommended by doctors when the baby is overdue and the mother’s labor has stalled.

Typically, most women tend to deliver the baby naturally around their targeted due date, without any major complications, naturally or by C-section. Some rebellious babies, however, might take a little longer to pop out. As a mother, if you are in your 41st week of pregnancy (full-term), have already felt a strong onset of labor pain but it eventually blurred, you most likely would be suggested induced labor – and that is where Pitocin plays the lead role.

So, what really is Pitocin, and is Pitocin safe?

Pitocin is a pharmaceutical drug that is used to induce contractions in a pregnant woman’s uterus in order to either induce labor or to speed it up. You might now be wondering if Pitocin is safe to use; if taken under a doctor’s recommendation and guidance, Pitocin is 100% safe to use. Pitocin, essentially, is just a synthetic version of oxytocin. Oxytocin, you may already know, is a naturally occurring hormone produced by a woman’s body to signal the uterus to contract during labor.

Pitocin was introduced only around the  mid-1950s and up until then, for women who were overdue or whose labor had stalled, there were not a lot of options for inducing delivery except a C-section. After the introduction of Pitocin, however, the whole game took a turn, and mothers were empowered to deliver naturally, albeit with some synthetic hormonal help.

When is a Pitocin induction recommended?

Pitocin induction is usually recommended by doctors in the following cases-

  • An overdue or post-term pregnancy that has gone beyond two weeks of the due date
  • If a premature rupture of the membrane takes place, i.e., if the water breaks but labor does not take place
  • An internal infection in the mother’s body
  • Prevailing high blood pressure or preeclampsia
  • Severe gestational diabetes
  • Fetal growth restrictions

How is Pitocin administered?

The primary goal of Pitocin induction is to mimic the natural process of labor with an artificial or a synthetic dosage of naturally occurring hormones in a woman’s body. By mimicking oxytocin and doing its job of signaling the uterus to contract, Pitocin induces strong, consistent contractions at ideal, regular intervals in order to dilate the cervix and transition you to the ‘push’ stage of labor.

Pitocin is administered by a pump via an IV. The administration process usually begins in small doses to first assess the response of the mother’s body and if all goes well, the dose is then increased every 20-30 minutes until the contractions begin to take place in a regular pattern (ideally, about 2-3 minutes apart).

How Long Does Pitocin Take To Work?

There is no fixed timeline as to when Pitocin starts to show its magic. The time taken for it to kick in is highly subjective, however, on average or in most cases, the drug’s effects start to show in about an hour or so post-administration. Certain other factors like the nature of previous deliveries (if any) and the degree of cervical effacement also play a role in how quickly Pitocin would show its effect.

Once contractions begin to settle into an active pattern and intensify, factors like how soft and open your cervix is and if you’ve had previous deliveries or not play a big role in how quickly the Pitocin works to dilate the cervix and speed up delivery.

Does Pitocin Pose Any Side-Effects On The Mother or Baby?

All drugs tend to cause side-effects in some form or another and Pitocin remains no exception. Having said that, since Pitocin, after all, is just mimicry of a naturally occurring hormone, the degree of side effects posed by Pitocin is usually mild and easily treatable.

Here are some of the most common side effects of Pitocin as experienced by most women-

  • Nausea, vomiting, and fluid retention leading to bloating
  • Increased pain and uncomfortable labor (since Pitocin makes contractions stronger)
  • Distressed fetus: Since Pitocin accelerates contractions and speeds the labor, it can translate to additional stress on the baby which could lead to decreased placental blood flow and a lower fetal heartbeat. In order to resolve this, doctors keep a close check on the baby’s heart rate and adjust the dosage as per the response of the baby
  • In very extreme and rare cases, Pitocin might also cause Uterine rupture (rupture or a tear in the uterine wall) by virtue of contractions that are too strong

All said and done, the administration of Pitocin is usually a safe process, and mothers do not have a lot to stress about it. Trust your doctor, learn about it to make an informed decision, and prepare for the congratulations in order!

Pitocin Induction FAQs

1. Is Picotin also used post-delivery ?

In some cases, since Pitocin is meant to contract the uterus, it is also used post-delivery to accelerate the delivery of the placenta and to put an end to postpartum bleeding.

2. How does Pitocin help accelerate labor ?

Your doctor might advise administration of Pitocin in order to accelerate a stalled labor since Pitocin is essentially a synthetic mimicry of oxytocin - a naturally occurring hormone in the mother’s body that signals the uterus to contract during labor. Pitocin helps because long and stalled labor otherwise poses severe risks to the health of the baby and the mother like blood clots and internal infections. Longer labor also could translate to the need of undergoing a C-section.

3. Does Pitocin make labor more painful ?

Factually, labor is one of the most painful processes. Having said that, if you are worrying that Pitocin might make your labor more painful, it might - however, it is more important to trust the advice of the doctors as they know what’s best for you and your baby.

4. Is Pitocin FDA approved for induction ?

Yes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves Oxytocin (Pitocin) for inducing labor as well as Dinoprostone for ripening (softening) the cervix.

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