If your baby is overdue or your labour has stopped, Pitocin is commonly used as a way of inducing the mother into labour. It is a safe and recommended method used by the majority of medical professionals.
Expecting the unexpected is the best way to begin your journey into the world of motherhood. This can, and frequently is the case before your baby has even been born.
Due dates are frequently used as a guide and many women deliver on time but not everyone does. If this is the case for you and you have not started labouring naturally when you have reached 41 weeks or if you have started labouring but have stopped prior to giving birth, there is every chance that Pitocin will be given to you by your doctor. This is the best medical way to induce labour and help you to give birth. This is also the way in which births are induced in mothers who are required to give birth earlier than their due date, too.
Knowing as much as you possibly can about Pitocin can be incredibly useful so that you are prepared and calm if you end up needing the aid of Pitocin when you are ready to have your baby. For more information, just keep on reading.
What is Pitocin?
Pitocin is an induction drug which is very effective because it causes the uterus to contract. This helps to start a stubborn labour or move a long labour on so that it will pick up its pace. This contraction inducing drug is a man-made version of oxytocin, the natural drug that starts the labour process. The natural process would see the oxytocin communicating with the uterus and telling it contract which starts labour. If this does not happen on its own, Pitocin can be used instead and does exactly the same job but there’s no waiting around for it to take effect.
Pitocin has only be used for around 70 years, with very little alternative options being available for women who were not labouring naturally or whose labour had ceased. Therefore, their only option in this instance was to have a caesarean until well into the 1950s. The turning point was the development of Pitocin and the trust that doctors had and still have in it today. Pitocin gave both women and medical professionals new options to help labour and has continued to be useful for decades.
Pitocin can be recommended by medical professionals for multiple reasons including:
- For an overdue baby that has gone two weeks past their due date
- If the waters have broken but labour does not start naturally which is known as the premature rupturing of membranes.
But there are other reasons Pitocin is used by medics which is not as common but still viable, like:
- Mothers with high blood pressure or preeclampsia
- If there is an infection
- Gestational diabetes
- When the foetus has had its growth restricted.
Pitocin is a very common way for medical professionals to be able to assist both mother and baby with labour. It is a great way to help labour to start faster or for progression to occur.
It works through mimicking what the body would naturally do when oxytocin would normally kick in. But when it does not, Pitocin can be a great alternative as this gets the uterus to contract. Doctors use Pitocin to be able to gain a strong and frequent contraction so that the cervix will dilate enabling the mother to reach the stage of labour where she can push. Not only can Pitocin be used to help deliver the baby, but it can also be extremely effective at delivering the placenta as well as getting a postpartum bleed to stop. This is because of the effect it has on the contracting of the uterus.
The way in which Pitocin is delivered does not alter particularly as it is generally given via IV on a pump basis. A cannula is fitted and then the Pitocin can be administered effectively and in specific doses. The levels of Pitocin can be increased and are commonly done so every 20 to 30 minutes to gain a regular contraction pattern. This will then become the dose you require when your contractions reach two to three minutes apart each time, though the levels of Pitocin can be decreased if you are contracting too much or too frequently. Finding the balance between the contraction rate and the level of Pitocin is essential so as not to put too much stress on the baby or on you at a very tiring time of your life.
Arguably, the time that Pitocin takes to work does depend on the scenario and the woman in question, so a specific timeframe is hard to give. The general consensus is that after about one hour, the effects of Pitocin are felt but there are multiple different factors that will play a big role in how quickly the Pitocin will induce you into active labour and how long it will be before you are ready to push. These circumstances involve:
- How soft the cervix is
- How open the cervix is
- If this is your first baby
- If this is your first vaginal delivery
- How your body responds to the Pitocin itself.
With Pitocin’s aim being to speed up the process of cervix dilation by inducing the uterus to contract, this is all very subjective to each individual woman as to speed and severity of the Pitocin.
Reasons for using Pitocin
Two of the main reasons why Pitocin is used is to help a mother who has not started labour naturally but has reached 41 weeks or to help labour progress that has naturally started but stopped. When labours are elongated, it can be very dangerous for both the mum and the unborn child. There are increased risks of certain things happening such as the likelihood of infection, blood clot or the need for a caesarean. Pitocin use in this situation is hugely helpful as it can prevent or decrease the risk of any of these dangerous events from occurring. Pitocin is given in small quantities until the contractions of the mother’s uterus either start or re-start once more.
Side Effects of Pitocin
As with the use of any drug, there are side effects with using Pitocin, though they do not tend to be severe. Usually, they are very mild and easy to treat if they occur at all. The most common and mildest side effects of Pitocin can include nausea, vomiting and retaining fluid, but other possibilities include:
- Pain: For women who have had Pitocin to induce them, the pain felt when their labours start is usually increased. This means that the chance of requiring an epidural during this time is higher because the contractions are stronger and longer. Pain needs to be properly managed so as not to stress or tire both the mother and the baby too much.
- The distress of the foetus: Pitocin makes contractions stronger and faster. When too much Pitocin is used, contractions can be too strong, too long or too close together which can lead to your baby getting stressed out. It also increases the risk of the placental blood flow getting too low as well as the foetal heartbeat.
- Caesarean: There is a common link between the use of Pitocin and the chance of having a caesarean increasing when labour has been induced.
- Uterine rupture: As Pitocin makes contractions faster and stronger as well, there is a chance that a uterine rupture may occur. It is a very rare side effect of Pitocin but it is something that all expectant mothers should be aware of.
Final Thoughts about Pitocin
Pitocin is a very safe and effective way of inducing a labour so that a woman can go through the process of labour and delivery without too much medical intervention. You may have a lot of questions about being induced, especially if you know there is a high chance of you needing to be given Pitocin prior to being admitted to hospital, so talk to your healthcare provider. They will answer any questions and reassure you as best as possible as your due date dawns closer.