Pitocin is Not Oxytocin’s Evil Twin

Pregnant woman waiting for a c-section in the hospital

A common misconception among doulas and birthing families is that Pitocin is the enemy and to be avoided at all costs.

Oxytocin: a hormone produced in the hypothalamus and transported to and secreted by the pituitary gland. It is released during sex, childbirth, and lactation. In labor, it is causes the uterus to contract.

Pitocin: a synthetic version of Oxytoxin used to start or strengthen labor contractions during childbirth and control bleeding after childbirth

Like a lot of other interventions, when used strategically, it can be the difference between a cesarean birth and a vaginal birth. That’s right, Pitocin can actually help women have a vaginal birth.

In hospital births, Pitocin can be used if

  • Induction is necessary
  • The water has broken but contractions have not started
  • Labor has stalled, meaning there has not been any cervical change for a significant period of time or contractions have slowed or stopped entirely

Pitocin is inserted into the IV in your arm and administered as needed, starting at a lower dose and increased every 15-30 minutes until contractions are longer, stronger, and closer together. Many people worry that Pitocin contractions will be more uncomfortable than your body’s own contractions. Your contractions need to hit a certain intensity to allow cervical change. Your body takes you to that point more gradually than Pitocin does.

Other non-medical options for increasing contractions may include nipple stimulation, walking and changing positions, and getting frisky with your love. But if those options are not working, your care provider may want to introduce Pitocin, to prevent infection, fetal distress, or exhaustion from occurring and to prevent an emergency cesarean from occurring later.

If you are still unsure about Pitocin, make sure you talk to your provider for more information.

3 responses to “Pitocin is Not Oxytocin’s Evil Twin”

  1. Love this and love the positive spin on pitocin usage. There are times when all interventions are helpful, if not necessary. As you said, “strategic use,” can make the difference in the way the birth unfolds. Thank you so much for this Ashley!

  2. EBlack says:

    Totally. My firstborn would probably still be in there if it weren’t for Pitocin! It can be so helpful when used wisely, and not as a routine way to start or “augment” labor that is progressing just fine on its own.

  3. Great blog! Pitocin doesn’t have to be viewed negatively at all.