This is the first of 4 posts about pitocin use, and alternative options that a mom might have during induction, labor, and postpartum.
“She’s on pit.”
“Are we doing pit?”
“Did you get the pit started?”
“Is she doing a pit induction?”
“The pit is running.”
Pit, or pitocin, is one of the most commonly used medical interventions in childbirth. I have seen estimated statistics as high as 60% of births using pitocin to induce or augment labor. Pitocin is used to induce labor, “speed up” labor, and routinely after birth to help prevent hemorrhage. Pitocin can cause labor patterns to be unnaturally difficult for mom and baby, often leading to other medical interventions and eventually even c-sections sometimes, that could have been avoided had pitocin not been administered in the first place. Is this always the case? Absolutely NOT. We completely recognize the need for labor induction and augmentation sometimes, and have personally seen pitocin-augmented deliveries go smoothly. But it’s not often the case, and many care providers don’t mention the difference between synthetic oxytocin (aka Pitocin) and natural oxytocin produced by mom’s body when she’s in labor. There are differences, and they effect mom and baby and labor differently. In fact, in 2013, ACOG released a statement about a study regarding Pitocin and the negative effects on newborns:
“As a community of practitioners, we know the adverse effects of Pitocin from the maternal side,” Dr. Tsimis said, “but much less so from the neonatal side. These results suggest that Pitocin use is associated with adverse effects on neonatal outcomes. It underscores the importance of using valid medical indications when Pitocin is used.” (source).
Just a few weeks ago, another study was released indicating a significant relationship between the use of pitocin and postpartum depression in mothers. The study results showed that, for women with a history of anxiety or depression, exposure to synthetic oxytocin during birth increased their chances of having postpartum depression/anxiety by 36%. In women with no previous history of anxiety or depression, their risk was increased 32%. These are not small numbers, folks. And keep in mind, this is only the percentage of women who were diagnosed and treated with medication. How many thousands of women struggle through their postpartum time with undiagnosed PPD or anxiety because they are afraid to tell anyone, or don’t even recognize it? I know I am one of them.
So, what’s a woman to do? When her care provider is suggesting induction, or her natural labor pattern is not “fast enough” or “progressing well,” or her care provider uses pitocin as standard protocol post-delivery, is she supposed to just say no and hope for the best? No! While we absolutely recognize the need for pitocin sometimes, I think we can ALL agree that it is significantly overused, and often leads to a string of events commonly called the “cascade of interventions.”
Over the next few weeks, I hope you’ll join me as I discuss some alternatives to pitocin for induction, labor augmentation, and post-birth, as well as share some resources for moms who are struggling with PPD. Stay tuned!
Standard Disclaimer: Doulas are NOT medical professionals, and anything that is suggested or mentioned as an option on this blog should always be discussed with your care provider.