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Pitocin: Is the Pit Bull?

Written by Jeanne Ohm, D.C.   
Friday, 27 June 2008 11:11
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In one day's time I received two calls asking about the relationship between the administration of pitocin and neurologically compromised infants at birth and my intuitive antennas went off. Pitocin is a synthetic version of oxytocin the naturally produced hormone in the laboring woman. It is preferably administered through IV. As with all drugs, it does not come without its side effects, the most common being increased blood pressure in both the mother and child. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that no drug has been tested as safe for the baby in utero.

Pitocin is used for either labor induction or labor enhancement (what an inappropriate use of that term!) The use of pitocin does not, however, duplicate the natural progression of labor. Pit induced labors have longer, harder and more painful uterine contractions. Additional reported risks of induction are:

For the mother:

Higher rate of complicated labors and deliveries, greater need for analgesics and anesthetics, postpartum hemorrhage and a higher rate of placental rupture and separation life-threatening to both the mother and baby.

For the baby:

Induction causes fetal distress, a higher rate of jaundice, a greater chance of a prematurity, low apgar scores at 5 minutes, permanent central nervous system or brain damage and fetal death.1

In either induced or enhanced use of pitocin, the blood supply (and therefore the oxygen source) to the uterus is greatly reduced. With naturally paced contractions, there is a time interval between contractions allowing for the baby to be fully oxygenated before the next contraction. In induced or stimulated labor, the contractions are closer together and last for a longer time thus shortening the interval where the baby receives its oxygen supply. Reduced oxygen could have life-long consequences on the baby's brain.

It is the belief (not necessarily the practice) in the medical profession that induction should occur when the risk of continuing pregnancy presents a threat to the life of the mother or baby. These situations include: some severe diabetics, kidney disease, severe preclampsia, severe high blood pressure, kidney disease, and an overdue pregnancy where a danger to the fetus has been proven. If induction were carried out only when these conditions were present, at most, an estimate of 3% of births would be induced.2