Pitocin Induction For Labor: Should I Use It?
While some women have their water breaks and then suddenly go into labor. Some women feel like the baby never wants to leave their womb. For this reason, doctors may need to help induce labor using a variety of methods. Pitocin induction is one of the common practices doctors use. But if labor induction is something you aren’t familiar with, it can sound a bit intimidating.
Don’t let it scare you off. One in five labors needs a little jumpstart to induce labor. Here is what you should know about pitocin induction!
What is Pitocin?
Pitocin is a drug that mimics the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin plays a crucial role in stimulating contractions by the uterus to prepare for giving birth. It also mainly works to help excrete breast milk for breastfeeding. Pitocin is a synthetic drug that is used to assist with triggering contractions.
What Is Pitocin Induction?
This powerful drug is one of the few options that your doctor and assistants will have if you haven’t gone into labor at the appropriate time. Or it can also be used if you have gone into labor but one of the stages is taken longer than usual.
If none of the other methods a doctor tries to use first, then you will likely use Pitocin. Some methods that may first be tried are stripping the membrane, cervix ripening, or breaking the water themselves.
If none of these triggers your contraction Pitocin will be administered through an I.V. in a small dose. That dose will be increased until the contractions are triggered and they are about two to three minutes apart each. Once the contractions start, the doctor will begin to dial back or completely stop the Pitocin for a natural label.
Benefits of a Pitocin Induction
A body that is due for a baby that hasn’t started labor can take on some unnecessary risk that Pitocin can help with. Stress, avoiding cesarean surgery, among other benefits are what you can expect from a Pitocin induction.
Speeds Up Prolonged Labor
In some cases, women just need a little push in labor. This is the main benefit of administering Pitocin. The mother may be over her due date and it may become too difficult to continue to weigh for the baby to be born.
Reduces Stress and High Blood Pressure
The bigger the baby gets inside a mother’s belly the harder it becomes for her to do everyday things. This likely means an increased heart rate because of the work the mother is putting into to walk, be on her feet, and complete daily tasks. In general, it can be stressful if the mom hasn’t gone into labor and is much past her due date. This increases blood pressure. Pitocin can help reduce the stress that comes with trying to give birth but not going into labor.
Avoids Complications with Your Water breaking
There have been times where a woman's water has broken but labor did not follow. In this case, a doctor may have you come in for Pitocin. This is because a doctor may have a woman’s water broken at the hospital if contractions haven’t begun and you are past the due date. If your water breaks naturally but no contraction follows Pitocin becomes one of the more appropriate alternatives for inducing labor.
How Does Pitocin Work?
In most cases, Pitocin is administered without option. It’s a step a doctor will take because they need to keep the baby and mother safe. This is because contractions are either not occurring at all or they are moving too slowly and the process needs to be sped up. This is how Pitocin works and how the process goes.
The synthetic drug that mimics oxytocin is administered through an I.V. to stimulate the hormone at start contractions with your uterus. This drug will attach itself to the uterus receptors and contractions will begin to help dilate the cervix.
Every situation is different but normally a doctor will administer 2 milliunits to see how the body responds and monitor both the mother and baby to see if there are any reactions. If the body already starts going, they may keep it at that. But in general, doses will be increased every 30 minutes by whatever dosage is needed to keep the contracts on schedule.
In some cases, Pitocin is not stopped immediately during labor. While it is meant to induce labor, some doctors may need to administer some after labor. This is because the Uterus is supposed to continue to contract after labor to start any postpartum bleeding.
No woman is identical to another which is why it can be difficult to predict the timing of Pitocin working. Normally, you can expect to start feeling some contractions an hour from when the first dose is administered. Some women will have the Pitocin work very quickly others will need more aggressive doses to help get the process moving.
The best way to check to see if the body is responding to the Pitocin is to see if the cervix is dilating and how much. From there a doctor can have a better sense of how much dosage is needed to continue to induce labor.
Pitocin Side Effects
While Pitocin can be incredibly helpful and beneficial when it comes to helping the safety and health of both the baby and mother, it can also cause some unwanted side effects. These side effects include:
Nausea or Vomiting
One of the most common side effects that can occur from an injection of Pitocin is nausea and vomiting. This may be because the drug is unsettling to the stomach but can also be linked to the oncoming contractions that will lead to stomach pain and cramping.
Cramping or Stomach Pain
This is natural as the contractions will start to increase and feel more intense. It can also be the side effect that sets off nausea and vomiting if the cramping and stomach pain is intense and overwhelming for the mother.
Runny Nose or Sinus Pain
It’s not uncommon for the mother to feel sinus pressure in their face. This can cause a runny nose or even in some cases painful sinuses. This may be the result of an allergic reaction.
Loss of Appetite
Due to potential nausea, cramping, stomach pain, and other symptoms, it is quite natural to have a severe loss of appetite. During labor, this seems to be less of an issue anyway since the mother won’t be eating big meals while delivering the baby.
Possible Allergic Reactions
One of the reasons why Pitocin has to be administered so carefully is because there is a possibility to have an allergic reaction. This would be both bad for the mother and baby if not treated so a doctor will start with small dosages to monitor the body's response to the drug. Because it is a synthetic brand-name drug, it is somewhat different from the natural hormone.
Because of the side effects listed above, several risks can come out of these effects. While the drug does a great job of keeping mothers and babies safe, all mothers should be aware of the potential setbacks.
Overstimulation of the Uterus
When contracts begin to happen too quickly this is because the uterus has been overstimulated by the drug. This can be dangerous to the baby because contractions are when blood vessels squeeze tight to dilate the cervix. This cuts off blood flow to a baby and can hurt the baby or in worst-case scenarios cause death.
Having an infection during labor is always a risk to both the baby and mother. Pitocin can cause an infection to the uterus which may complicate the pregnancy or future pregnancies.
Rupture of the Uterus
While the risk of this is relatively low, over-administered doses of Pitocin can lead to a rupture of the uterus. This can lead to the placenta detaching and leaving the baby deprived of oxygen.
While this information may seem alarming it is important to know that most doctors and hospitals know how to administer Pitocin correctly and safely. You may still have some questions so here are the most commonly asked questions about Pitocin
When Is Pitocin Administered?
Other than Pitocin being administered for the reason to induce labor because you are not experiencing contractions, Pitocin can not be administered until your cervix is ready to have a baby. This is referred to as a favorable cervix. A favorable cervix has softened and rotated so that is in the position to deliver a baby and start dilating.
How is Pitocin Different Than Cervidil?
Cervidil is a different type of drug that is used to soften the cervix whereas Pitocin is used when the cervix is ready to go. Cervidil also carries a lot fewer side effects than Pitocin. Pitocin is considered to be a more high-risk procedure.
They are also administered differently as Pitocin as we know is done through an IV. Cervidil is inserted vaginally and comes in a thin package that is very gel-like. The two drugs work together where Cervidil is administered about 12 hours before the Pitocin is administered.
Over the 12 hours between the insertion of the Cervidil and the Pitocin the drug naturally releases itself from the body as the cervix begins to soften and lower.
Does Pitocin Cause Labor To Be More Painful?
Pitocin can cause the labor pains and contractions to be much more painful and intense than if it were to happen naturally on your own. This is because the contractions are coming much more quickly and the process is being sped up by the drug. The upside to this is that Pitocin may make your contractions a lot more painful because of the frequency and intensity but it also speeds up the labor to the point where it usually lasts for a shorter period than natural labor.
While it is common to report more painful labor some women didn’t find that it was as or more painful than natural birth. This again is dependent on every woman as their body tolerances and pain thresholds differ. What may seem very painful to one woman may seem not as big of a deal to another.
How Will Doctors Know If My Cervix is Ready?
Doctor’s use is referred to as the Bishop Score. The numbers range from 0-13 and anything below a six usually indicates that your cervix is not ready to give birth. The score will usually start changing within a few weeks before giving birth. This is when your cervix begins to soften and open up.
Go Over The Logistics
Reading about Pitocin and what it does to aid the process of labor when it is stalled or not starting is a great start to understanding the drug. Pitocin is not an elective sort of procedure as a doctor may use it as medically necessary to induce your labor. That’s why it’s good to know what the side effects are and risks that come with Pitocin.
While there are risks many doctors and their health staff know how to correctly administer the drug in appropriate doses so that the baby and the mother are as safe as possible. Pitocin can have a lot of great benefits if the mother is in medical need of induced labor. It can speed the process up and lower the risks associated with c-sections.
Pitocin does however have the capability of producing more intense and painful contractions than natural labor because of the frequency in which the contractions come after being administered the drug. The upside to this is that labor will normally then be shorter than if you were to have the baby naturally.
The best thing you can do is talk this possibility out with your doctor.