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What Does Pitocin Do In Labour?

Are you way ahead of your due date in your pregnancy and are still feeling absolutely no contractions whatsoever? Then it's time for a dose of pitocin.

Contractions occur at the end of the pregnancy when the baby is finally ready to be born in the world. The cervix is dilated and expands to accommodate the baby. Once the cervix is ready, women go into labour. Contractions that are almost 2-3 minutes apart is the perfect time to push.

But sometimes, the mother does not experience contractions at all. This is the time when doctors inject pitocin to the mother to induce labour. Want to know more about it? Well, keep reading to find out what exactly is pitocin and how does it help to induce labour.

What Is Pitocin?

Oftentimes, women do not experience the progression of labour even after their water breaks. In such cases, not delivering the baby within a stipulated time may cause harm to the baby and the mother. This is the time when doctors use pitocin to induce labour.

The hormone responsible for inducing labour is oxytocin. It makes the uterus contract and gets the body ready for birth. Women do not experience labour if there are no sufficient levels of oxytocin in the body.


Why Is Pitocin Given During Labour?

Sometimes, mothers experience contractions but they are not strong enough to induce labour. In such cases, pitocin will help kick-start natural labour in mothers.

Pitocin is also given to women whose water has broken but has not gone into labour for more than 48 hours. This poses a risk for both mother and the baby. Pitocin helps induce labour in such cases and avoid a Caesarean birth.


How Long Does It Take To Go Into Labour After Pitocin Is Administered?

Everyone responds to pitocin differently. While some women may go in labour just hours after administration, it may take 6-12 hours for some women to experience active labour. However, it mainly depends on the cervix. The contraction starts earlier if the cervix is dilated and ready.

On the other hand, women may not go into labour even after being induced with pitocin if their cervix is not ready. As pitocin does not affect the cervix in any way, until and unless the cervix is dilated, even just a little bit, pitocin will help start labour.

Doctors usually start with low doses of pitocin through an IV. Some women start experiencing contractions within the 30 minutes. The dosage is continued till they experience contractions every 2-3 minutes.


Is Induced Labour More Painful Than Natural Labour?

There are many women who claim that induced labour is more painful than natural labour. This may be due to the fact that induced contractions are far closer to each other and stronger than regular contractions.

Though, pitocin is induced in fewer doses to begin with, it can kick-start the labour process and cause painful contractions. This can be quite stressful for the mother and baby and hence women with pitocin are constantly monitored.


Are There Any Side Effects For Pitocin-induced Labour?

Pitocin is only synthetic oxytocin and oxytocin can be too beneficial for us to be harmful. Here are some of the side effects of pitocin-induced labour.

1) Contractions induced through pitocin are generally frequent and, therefore, painful. This may require the constant monitoring of foetal heart rate to determine the stress of the powerful contractions on the baby.

2) In some cases, pitocin is known to rupture the uterine walls in efforts of a vaginal birth after a previous Caesarean one.

3) Pitocin can also cause overstimulation of the uterus which can be quite painful for the mother.

4) Pitocin-induced birth most often accompanies epidurals as the powerful contractions can be difficult to manage. Epidural is known to cause some complications to babies after birth.

5) The long-term effects of pitocin on babies are not yet known as it is a relatively new drug. However, initial studies have found that the use of pitocin increases the baby's risk of developing jaundice right after childbirth.


Can Pitocin Affect Breastfeeding?

There are many researches that reveal no direct connection between breastfeeding and pitocin-induced labour. However, the synthetic hormone may cause various other problems which may affect the breastfeeding process.

- In some women, pitocin causes breast engorgement as it is anti-diuretic, which may make it difficult for the newborn baby to latch on to the nipple and feed properly.

- Pitocin-induced labours most often call for an epidural to be administered during labour to deal with the pain. This may result in a sleepy baby which may not be proactive in feeding.

- Pitocin being an artificial form of oxytocin may affect the secretion of breast milk immediately after birth.

Medically-induced births do have their own risks but sometimes they can be a lifesaver. Therefore, it is important to opt for these only if complications arise for the mother and the baby. As a pregnant woman, you have all the rights for informed choices.

Story first published: Thursday, October 4, 2018, 17:00 [IST]
Read more about: labour