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Pitocin: Risks and Reasons for Induction and Scheduled Births

Pitocin is the brand name for synthetic oxytocin, combined with a small amount of a chloroform derivative used as a preservative and Ph-stabilized with acetic acid. Itís used to induce labor in women whose labors arenít progressing, and all too often, itís used in scheduled births. Pitocin is usually administered in IV drip, and requires fetal monitoring, effectively making labor more difficult by confining the woman to her bed. If the amniotic sac is still intact, a medical professional will break it before administering the drug. Most women complete labor within 12 hours of receiving Pitocin

Pitocin Can Be Overused During Delivery

Some experts estimate that in 3-5% of labor cases, Pitocin helps with delivery. But a medical researcher based at the University of Texas released a study in 1998 showing that 81% of women surveyed were given Pitocin. Often, Pitocin is used after a successful delivery to accelerate delivery of the placentaóan unnecessary procedure, as the usual methods of nipple stimulation by nursing and uterine massage generally do the job just fine.

Pitocin is necessary when labor isnít progressing, but some experts say itís being used too early or too late: the optimal window is when the Bishopís score is 5 or over, but before the woman is exhausted. With a Bishopís score under 5, the cervix isnít sufficiently ripened, and Pitocin is much less likely to work. Once the mother is too tired, the increased pain and lengthened contractions normally reported by Pitocin users will only worsen the situation, often resulting in C-section.

Pitocin For Scheduled Birth

Scheduled birth induction gained in popularity in the Ď80s, when working women tried to fit childbearing into skin-tight work schedules. No matter what the career magazines say, inducing labor to ďget back to your lifeĒ is a mistake. Inducing labor because the water has broken but labor hasnít begun, because labor isnít moving along, or because you need to get the baby out fast for medical reasons, is the reason for using hormonal induction. Many hospitals use it as a matter of course, to fit the doctorsí schedules, and to move women in and out of the hospital at top speed. Women have to stand up for themselves (not so easy when youíre hunched over with contractions!) and refuse to be treated as medical-mechanical objects. When designing your birth plan, make sure your physician agrees to use it only if thereís no other choice.

Risks Associated With Pitocin

Pitocin has side effects that include longer, stronger, much more painful contractions; injury to the uterus or placenta, vaginal damage and potential for fetal anoxia. Pitocin also increases your chance of having an epidural. (If an epidural is administered first and too soon (before the cervix is adequately dilated), your body stops releasing oxytocin and the chance of failing to progress in labor is greatly increased, increasing your chances of then being given Pitocin.)

In some circumstances, it is best to move right to Cesarean section without using medicine. If the baby is to big for your pelvis (fetopelvic disproportion); if youíve had uterine surgery that prevents the baby from exiting normally or that may cause you injury; if there is an active infection; or in cases of placenta previa, labor induction drugs will not help. If youíve had a previous Cesarean and are going vbac (vaginal birth after Cesarean), donít let your doctor assume that youíll need Pitocin or other prostaglandin drugs for labor induction; every birth is different.

Natural Alternatives to Pitocin

Try alternatives before using Pitocin, (which is also passed to the baby in breast milk). Natural oxytocin is secreted by your body during birth (also during orgasm and nipple stimulation). Simple movement, such as walking or changing positions is a great assist in labor, and can help move labor along without drugs. A doula or midwife can tell you how to advance your labor naturally.

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