25 Moms Share What A Pitocin Contraction Feels Like 

You are a liar, OB-GYN. When you told me that people were overreacting to what a pitocin contraction actually feels like, you totally lied. You came into the room of a person who never thought she'd have to be induced (after two unmedicated births) and said it would be just like that. It wasn't.

I understand the on-call doctor was just trying to comfort me and ease my worry. But, honestly, I don't understand the mindset of assuring someone of something you couldn't possibly know will be true. It's like telling a child before a shot, "It's not going to hurt." They're going to know in a second that you are lying. Is the coercion to get a person to consent quickly really worth the betrayal?

For me, pitocin was nothing for hours. Then it was the hardest, meanest, non-stop violence my body had ever endured. Based not on science and only on my subjective experience of my body, I felt like I had no idea what was coming or when. Panic came in waves. Skull-and-pelvis-crushing pain came in tsunamis. The contractions came like hard rods of steel through my torso and down into my pelvis, vagina, and colon. I was pouring sweat as though I'd jumped into a swimming pool. Since I'd been on the highest dose allowable for so long, they had to keep the monitor on the baby at all times. This meant I couldn't stand and squat because the monitor kept falling off. The visceral need to be in a certain position is unlike any other state I can describe. Without being in the absolutely mandatory-to-my-body position (which was already wracking my every atom with indescribable pain) I had no control over my body. Pitocin labor was not like unmedicated labor. At least, not for me.

As we know, not all people's experiences are the same. Maybe the OB-GYN wasn't lying to me after all, maybe she just had a different experience with Pitocin. I decided to see how my experience compared to other people's experiences. So, here are moms on what Pitocin labor actually feels like.


"I started with Pitocin right away because my water broke before I went into labor. So I never felt a non-Pitocin contraction. We waited about six hours before they started the Pitocin. It was mild as far as I remember. We walked and walked until I was 5 cm. I don't remember it being panic inducing as other describe. The contractions were gradual and increased as I thought they would. It seemed natural, at least it was what I'd expected labor to be like."


"An unmediated Pitocin contraction feels like being turned inside out with your lungs collapsing, combined with worst flu nausea you ever had and your skin crawling all at the same time."


"God help the person who tries to touch or talk to you while in that contraction."


"They vary dramatically. With my first daughter, they weren't too bad by the time the doctor suggested an epidural, which I had. With my second daughter I had three rounds of the max allowed, barely ever felt anything and ended up with an emergency c-section instead. However, I have no normal contractions to compare them to."


"Like a dull serrated knife vibrating internally in your abdomen."


"Like getting hit by a freight train. My first was Pitocin, my twins were an unmedicated birth and OMG! The Pitocin contractions were 1,000 times worse."


"Really dull. My labor without Pitocin was way worse."


"First baby so just one labor experience. I had back labor, and my Pitocin contractions felt like sharp, heavy shots to the back. Heavy and strong enough that I had to remind myself to breathe."


"They weren't really painful till I hit transition. I don't have anything to compare them to, though."


"For me, Pitocin contractions were nothing like non-Pitocin contractions. I literally thought I might die during the Pitocin-induced labor, until I got the miracle that was an epidural."


"Pitocin contractions are sharp. They start out sly and subtle. Like, 'Hi, how ya doing,' then turn into a, 'BTW, I'm an ax murderer.' It may be why I was begging for an epidural at 2 cm. With both kids I was two weeks overdue without a sign of going into labor. Narrow interior for my pelvis so they didn't drop without a Pitocin prompt."


"Three births, one with Pitocin. Only one birth did I crack and ask for pain meds. Yeah, way more intense, closer together, and more panic-inducing somehow."


"Pitocin contractions with my posterior baby felt like I was being stabbed rhythmically with a dull knife. It was at that point that I experienced the worst pain I'd ever felt. To make matters worse, the nurse made me walk laps in the hallway, including lunges and squatting. I'm pretty sure I scared the other laboring people."


"It was awful. I lasted 24 hours before the pain got too great and I was screaming in pain as my fiancée held me up. I couldn't catch my breath and they told me I needed to calm down and breathe because I was putting my baby at risk. My fiancée finally lost it and yelled at the nurse to do something, while she was just standing there all calm like my screams were normal. She turned the Pitocin down or off and, when I could think straight again, I asked for an epidural. I was in labor for three days and was minutes away from getting wheeled off for a c-section when they checked me one last time and I was finally effaced enough to push."


"Pitocin felt like a searing inner tube of pain, with no break between surges. Awful. No natural oxytocin meant my pain experience sucked more."


"Like someone had knotted up my lower spine and every so often they would just pull on it really hard."


"It feels like you are experiencing menstrual cramps, but worse, as if someone has their hands on your uterus and is twisting and squeezing it as tight as they possibly can (like ringing out a wet towel), all while having someone else stab you in the stomach. That's about as accurate as I can describe as the pain is almost indescribable."


"I had an epidural before Pitocin was administered. For both offspring, I had the Pitocin because labor wasn't progressing. It was like nitro for my uterus. At daughter's birth, I was stalled at 5 cm for 10 hours. Reached 9.5 in less than an hour. Very glad for the epidural."


"I must be in the minority because I don't recall the Pitocin having any effect on my pain level."


"Pitocin contractions is like having an alien dig it's way simultaneously through your abdomen, ass, and bladder."


"I had five births non-medicated and loved it, and then this last birth (in January) I was given Pitocin to start things as my membranes had ruptured, but there were no contractions and no sign of any change. I didn't notice a 'difference' in the contractions per se, except that they were instantly strong and long. Like transition contractions for the whole labor instead of just signaling that you were almost done. Not my favorite feeling, and very tiring. But not traumatic in my case. I'm grateful for that, because stories like the ones told here completely terrified me. I just about had a panic attack when they told me Pitocin was the way to go."


"Labor started and immediately I was at an 11 on the pain scale and my contractions were 60-90 seconds apart. There was no real difference when I transitioned. (Finally, after 8 hours of labor I got an epidural and it was beautiful. Hooray drugs.)"


"Pitocin contractions felt sharper and much more intense than a regular contraction. Plus they came much faster with no rest in between which made it more unbearable. I have had two births, one without drugs (happened too fast for anything anyway) and one with everything, including an induction, Pitocin, morphine, and an epidural. I much prefer the memories of the [unmedicated] one, mostly because it was fast and therefore less miserable, but I don't regret my choices for either. If you need an induction, which I did, epidurals are a godsend."


"It felt OK at first, but felt like someone was grabbing into my spine and shaking."


"The day after my Pitocin birth, the only thing that hurt was my throat. From screaming."