Induction with Pitocin

I’ve said it many times before and it bares repeating here. The best labor and delivery are often the ones you let your baby decide when to enter this world. This might be a slow process, with your labor starting and stopping a couple of times. Our current hospital system really doesn’t allow much time for a labor which starts and stops.  

Perhaps you’ve already had Cytotec for cervical ripening and you are still not progressing as quickly as our current hospital system demands. If you wind up with the label “failure to progress,” your physician may suggest induction with Pitocin. And if you still don’t go into labor and deliver fast enough to make the insurance window of opportunity, the next suggestion will be a c-section.   

Pitocin is a synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin, a hormone that stimulates contractions to begin labor. Pitocin is injected into a muscle or by IV to induce you into labor.  

Why Consider Pitocin Inductions? 

The perfect scenario for your pregnancy is for your baby to stay in your womb for 40-41 weeks. Then, once your baby decides its time to be born, your body goes into labor and delivery full swing and you have your baby with little mechanical or technological intervention. Most women plan for this kind of natural birth, even if they go to the hospital. However, there may be times when your physician wants to speed up the process.  Always discuss the reasons for using Pitocin with your physician. You may decide you’d like to wait a while longer before starting Pitocin which will require you have an epidural. 

Pitocin Side Effects and Risks  

The contractions Pitocin creates are often quick to peak and quick to relax. This is not an effective kind of uterine contraction for labor. A normal uterine contraction increases slowly to a peak and decreases slowly, leaving a wide area under the shape of the contraction on the fetal monitor.  

Normally, in order to get an effective contraction with Pitocin, you will be given enough Pitocin that you will be unable to stand the pain of the contractions, and you will have to have an epidural. If this is what you want, you may be satisfied with the induction and the epidural. Some women really don’t want to undergo the pain of labor contractions, although without Pitocin, most women can tolerate the pain or a normal contraction. Plus, with natural labor, the contractions don’t last as long and although painful, they are less painful than contractions from Pitocin. 

The increased strength of Pitocin contractions over natural contractions can lead to fetal distress, with your baby’s heart rate being suppressed. When this happens, the Pitocin is stopped to give your baby a chance to rest. But sometimes with fetal distress, the decision is made to do an emergency cesarean section to get your baby out quickly. Cesareans are major surgeries and carry with them all of the risks associated with surgery, from pulmonary emboli to infection, to inadvertent damage to internal organs. 

I am still waiting for the definitive study on the effects of Pitocin on the baby. 

Ask your doctor about your options and discuss this before your due date to help you decide on what is best for you and your baby.  

Books

Dr. Alan Lindemann

Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB/GYN)​

He is an obstetrician and maternal mortality expert with 4 decades of medical practice beginning in Minnesota and presently in North Dakota. He has delivered around 6,000 babies with zero maternal deaths.