When I found out I needed to be induced in order to deliver my second child safely, my midwife recommended the use of Pitocin. Naturally, I worried about how it would go and what would happen during the process. Plus, there are things that shouldn't happen when you get Pitocin that are scary to even contemplate. Still, knowing the risks and the red flags is important, and in the end I'm glad I was not only informed but part of the decision making process that enabled me to have my child safely.
According to the American College of Obstetricans and Gynecologists (ACOG), Pitocin is a the synthetic version of oxytocin — a hormone your body produces during labor. The same site notes that Pitocin is commonly used to induce and augment (or help along) labor by causing your uterus to contract. Pitocin labor contractions are not functionally different than regular labor contractions, either. While Pitocin is generally considered safe to use during labor, there are things your doctor or midwife will look for if it's administered during labor.
Because Pitocin is administered intravenously, and everyone responds to the medication differently, if you receive the drug during labor your doctor or midwife will likely use electronic monitoring to track your blood pressure, your contractions, and your baby's heart rate. According to ACOG, Pitocin can cause contractions that are more intense or more frequent than the contractions you would have had without it, which can be extremely painful. According to one study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it can also cause your baby's heart rate to drop. This is why your doctor or midwife will absolutely monitor your health and your baby's health when giving you Pitocin during labor. Cochrane Reviews of induction and augmentation of labor with Pitocin also show that there are few risks of receiving the drug, aside from an increased likelihood of needing epidural pain medication.
But because Pitocin, like any other medication, does have risks, your doctor or midwife will monitor you closely to make sure the following things do not happen: