Most pregnant people spend a lot of time thinking about — and worrying about — how childbirth will go. If you need to be induced to deliver your baby safely, or protect your health, it can be really scary. To make matters worse, induction gets a bad rap, especially from people who think that it's "better" to go into labor on your own or have a medication-free birth. For example, an internet search for Pitocin — a medication used for inducing labor — can uncover a ton of scary myths about Pitocin that, fortunately, just aren't true at all.
According to the American College of Obstetricans and Gynecologists (ACOG), oxytocin is a hormone that your body produces naturally during labor. Pitocin is the brand name of synthetic oxytocin that is commonly used to induce and augment labor by causing your uterus to contract. Although many people suggest that Pitocin contractions cause significantly more pain than other contractions, according ACOG that totally depends on the dose used and how your body responds to the medication. The other commonly-believed claim that Pitocin increases your odds of a C-section isn't true either, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. While a few studies did show a link between Pitocin use and decreased breastfeeding rates, the studies didn't account for whether or not mothers planned to breastfeed in the first place. The same studies failed to take into consideration the fact that many other barriers might prevent a person from breastfeeding, and those barriers have absolutely nothing to do with Pitocin.
Not only are these myths, like not being able to bond with your baby after receiving Pitocin, devoid of real evidence, they're actually really harmful. There are many ways to bond with your baby, for example, that don't involve going into labor on your own, which any adoptive or non-gestational parent can confirm. To learn more about Pitocin, its really unfair reputation, and to put your mind at ease if you need it to safely deliver, read on:
Pitocin Contractions Are Worse Than Non-Pitocin Contractions
According to ACOG, Pitocin labor contractions are not functionally different than regular labor contractions. However, because Pitocin is administered intravenously, and everyone responds to medication differently, it can cause contractions that are more intense or frequent than the contractions that would accompany a labor without it.
As Dr. Keith Eddleman and Dr. Joanne Stone, co-authors of My Pregnancy and Baby told the website Mom.me, “Pitocin is utilized in a way to mimic natural contractions. The amount of pitocin you are receiving will be monitored to make sure contractions stay in the range of normal contractions.”
The truth is, sometimes induction of labor is medically necessary or safer than waiting to go into labor on your own. According to ACOG, there are several reasons your provider might recommend induction for your health or your baby's health, including preeclampsia, fetal distress, premature rupture of membranes, low amniotic fluid levels, maternal hypertension, or going past your due date. According to ACOG practice guidelines, if your water has broken, or if other induction methods don't kickstart your contractions, Pitocin is the best and safest choice.
It Increases Your Risk Of A C-Section
According the ACOG, because women who undergo induction of labor have higher rates of C-sections than those who experience spontaneous labor, it has been widely assumed that induction of labor itself increases the risk of cesarean delivery. Turns out, that's not necessarily the case. According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the risk of C-section delivery was lower with labor induction where Pitocin was used, than it was when health care providers waited to see if moms will go into labor on their own.
It's Dangerous For Your Baby
You may wonder if there are any risks to your baby from Pitocin. According to ACOG, the main risk of Pitocin to your unborn baby is changes in their heart rate due to uterine tachysystole, a condition when the mother has more than six uterine contractions in a 10-minute period. This risk is higher if Pitocin is administered too quickly or in high doses.
According to one study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, uterine hyperstimulation from Pitocin can result in a drop in your baby's heart rate and reduced oxygen saturation. ACOG's practice guidelines recommend reducing these risks by closely monitoring you and your baby closely during Pitocin use, and decreasing the amount or timing of the drug as needed.
It Interferes With Bonding
Any internet search for Pitocin reveals a number of websites claiming it will prevent you from bonding with your baby, by interfering with your brain's ability to produce oxytocin. According to Dr. Amy Tuteur, Harvard trained OB-GYN and author of Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting, claims related to pain during childbirth, the release of oxytocin, and parent-child bonding are unproven and untrue.
Besides, how do you measure a bond between a mom and her newborn? And what about non-gestational or adoptive parents? Considering that researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that both fathers and mothers experience increases in oxytocin when interacting with their babies, it seems that there's more than one way to bond with a baby than birthing them in a certain way (or at all).
It Will Screw-Up Your Chances Of Breastfeeding
Whether there's any connection between Pitocin and breastfeeding is not clear at all, despite what some "natural" birth advocates may say. While a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology show an association between Pitocin use and decreased likelihood of breastfeeding, the study didn't account for the reason why a mom needed Pitocin, or whether or not she wanted to breastfeed in the first place. That proves that, once again, correlation doesn’t equal causation.
Another study published in 2017 in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine showed no statistically significant difference in breastfeeding rates between moms who had Pitocin and those who didn't. The bottom line is that lots of women receive Pitocin during labor and go on to breastfeed. So, you shouldn’t let fear about not being able to breastfeed cause you to not listen to your doctor’s advice about the necessity of an induction.
It Causes Autism
If you have heard that Pitocin could have long-term effects on your baby, you should rest easy. While some older studies showed a potential link between Pitocin induction and autism, a newer Harvard study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which looked at children in the same family, showed that induction of labor does not increase a child's risk of being diagnosed with autism.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.