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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everything you NEED to know about pitocin!!

Any of my regular readers know that I have  a serious dislike of chemical inductions used to try to kick start a womans labour. The evils of Misoprostle/Cytotec are well known (thought still used extensively), and while there are many studies coming out that are linking medical inductions to serious side effects and consequences (like an exponential increase in the risk of having a caesarean section with all the extra risks that come with THAT), until I read this article, I had no idea of the actual risk associated with the Pitocin drug itself!

Any woman who is being threatened with an induced labour by her care provider- hell, every woman in general!  - should read this article.  Here lies the Pit of despair!!!

Pit of Despair

Pitocin – a very useful drug that improved obstetrics and gave us options to help women in ways we weren’t able to before!
Pitocin – a very seductive drug that changed obstetrics, increasing risks to mothers and babies in ways that are often not even taken into consideration.
Both of these statements are true – how can that be?  I will do my best to explain this complex issue in a simple and straight forward way.  Be warned…much of what you are about to read will probably be new to you because these are the things that aren’t being talked about!
I already did a previous blog post on inducing labor and some of the risks/benefits associated with the decision to induce, so I do not want to rehash that once again.  The decision to induce is one thing (and a decision that is not to be taken lightly), but what about once the decision is made?
I’m going to simply focus on Pitocin.

Pitocin is a drug used to induce or augment labors here in the US.  It is most often given via IV infusion, although immediately postpartum if an IV isn’t already in place it may be given as an intramuscular injection.  It was created for the first time in 1953 and became available just 2 years later.  Mothering magazine writes, “A survey by Robbie Davis-Floyd, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Texas, found that 81 percent of women in US hospitals receive Pitocin either to induce or augment their labors.”  It has been said that only 3% medically require it....

The author goes on to discuss the difference between natural Oxytocin that our bodies produce and the chemically derived pitocin given in hospitals.  This point really hit home to me:

Preparing fetal neurons for delivery. Crossing the placenta, maternal oxytocin reaches the fetal brain and induces a switch in the action of neurotransmitter GABA from excitatory to inhibitory on fetal cortical neurons. This silences the fetal brain for the period of delivery and reduces its vulnerability to hypoxic damage.
 But the real shocker for me was reading the list if side effects associated with Pitocin- not just the risks of artificially inducing a mother before her babe is ready- but the dangers of the drug itself!!!

So many people are given Pitocin without ever hearing a single risk or side effect other than, “it can cause too strong of contractions…but if it does that we’ll just turn it down or off.”
Lets see what has to say (you have to go to PAGE 3):
The following adverse reactions have been reported in the mother:
Anaphylactic reaction
Postpartum hemorrhage
Cardiac arrhythmia
Fatal afibrinogenemia
Hypertensive episodes
Premature ventricular contractions
Pelvic hematoma
Subarachnoid hemorrhage
Hypertensive episodes
Rupture of the uterus
Excessive dosage or hypersensitivity to the drug may result in uterine hypertonicity, spasm, tetanic contraction, or rupture of the uterus.
The possibility of increased blood loss and afibrinogenemia should be kept in mind when administering the drug.
Severe water intoxication with convulsions and coma has occurred, associated with a slow oxytocin infusion over a 24-hour period. Maternal death due to oxytocin-induced water intoxication has been reported.
The following adverse reactions have been reported in the fetus or neonate:
Due to induced uterine motility:
Premature ventricular contractions and other arrhythmias
Permanent CNS or brain damage
Fetal death
Neonatal seizures have been reported with the use of Pitocin.
Due to use of oxytocin in the mother:
Low Apgar scores at five minutes
Neonatal jaundice
Neonatal retinal hemorrhage”
Now is when you get angry when you realize that you were given this drug without any discussion whatsoever of these side effects and risks.

....This is such a complex game of Russian roulette that we are playing, and there are a lot more bullets in the gun than we are being told.  There are definitely times when we should thank our lucky stars that Pitocin has been created and it has saved moms and babies from undergoing cesareans or from having other complications such as postpartum hemorrhage which is a common cause of DEATH in lesser developed countries…but it is NOT the same thing as just encouraging your body to do it!  Rather than fixing the problem of stalled labor by acknowledging the relationship between the mind and body and baby and working within it’s natural balance, we resort to trying to put a bandaid on it and don’t even stop to ask what kinds of problems covering the wound might cause.
My solution?  Start by recognizing that our bodies are much more complex than we are acting like they are.  Recognize that labor and birth is a whole body experience, not just a uterine experience.   Treat the cause of the stalled labor, not just the uterus, and give this mom and baby ample time to both start and complete this process.  Making her feel safe, nurtured, secure, able to be vulnerable and relaxed and free….carries a heck of a lot less risks than Pitocin does.
HERE to read the entire article on the Nuturing Hearts Birth Services site