When labor is not going as it should be, doctors will often prescribe medication to help stimulate contractions. This may be done when the cervix has not dilated enough for the baby to move down through the birth canal, or it may be done when contractions are not occurring as often as they should be.
One of the most common medications for stimulating labor pains is pitocin. Doctors will prescribe this drug when contractions are not strong enough or when labor is delayed. Pitocin is becoming increasingly common as a medication during childbirth, so it is important that expecting mothers know about the advantages and disadvantages of this medication.
What Is Pitocin Used For?
Normally, the female body creates a hormone that causes labor pains to stop or continue. Pitocin uses the same type of hormones to stimulate labor or control bleeding after labor has been finished. On occasion, this drug is also used to start milk secretion after birth for breastfeeding. Depending on the individual’s medical condition, the doctor may also use this medication for other purposes.
If labor is normal, pitocin is not needed for the woman to give birth. This drug is only recommended when there is a specific medical reason that calls for it to be used. Because of this, it is important for the patient to discuss their condition and the need for pitocin with their doctor. This medication is only available when it is prescribed by a doctor—you cannot find it over the counter at any drug store.
Who Is Pitocin Given to?
In general, there are only three times when an expecting mother may given pitocin. These cases include:
1. When using an epidural will slow down labor and induction is needed to get contractions started again.
2. When induction is needed because the woman is at or past 42 weeks along.
3. In cases when support is necessary because the membrane was broken and contractions did not begin like they were supposed to.
What Is the Correct Dosage of Pitocin?
When given at a dosage of 0.5 to 1 milliunit per minute intravenously, this medication can stimulate labor pains. Doctors may increase the dosage by 1 or 2 milliunits a minute every 15 to 60 minutes until a normal pattern of contractions starts to develop.
What Are the Benefits of Using Pitocin?
The hormone oxytocin is frequently sold under the names of syntocinon or pitocin. This hormone is normally produced in the pituitary gland naturally to stimulate labor and cause labor pains to continue. The human body also uses oxytocin to control bleeding during and after delivery. When pregnant women are given the drug, it helps to remove the placenta following birth. In addition, pitocin can help to reduce the uterus to its normal size after a miscarriage. Women may also be prescribed pitocin to stimulate milk flow for breastfeeding.
Doctors typically use pitocin to induce labor easily because it allows them to control the start of labor, time of the delivery and progress of delivery. Other than pitocin, some doctors may use cervical softening gels instead. These gels are not always used however because they are difficult to monitor and it is harder to control the progress of labor. Many doctors will use pitocin to start labor and get it going normally. Once labor has been effectively started, they may gradually reduce the amount of the drug so that the woman’s body can just take over.
Using oxytocin to stimulate labor after the water breaks has been show to reduce the chances of infections. In addition, this drug may be used for women who have a painful, slow labor. When used in this circumstances, it can reduce the amount of agony that the woman experiences by shortening her labor duration.
What Are the Side Effects of Using Pitocin?
Like any medication, there are risks in using pitocin. There is a chance that synthetic oxytocin can cause the fetus to undergo stress because of overly strong contractions. If this happens, the health care provider will stop using the medication and monitor the baby for any further signs of fetal stress.
There is also a chance that the uterine walls will rupture. This is more likely to occur if the woman previously had a cesarean and is now trying to have a vaginal birth. Pitocin is a fairly new medication, so the long-term side effects are not known. Some practitioners believe that synthetic oxytocin could increase the chances of the baby developing Asperger’s Syndrome or autism.
Contraindications for Using Pitocin
Pitocin is not recommended for mothers who have allergies to oxytocin. If you may have an allergy, discuss it with your doctor. You should also ask your doctor if the medication is safe to use if you have any of the following conditions:
– High blood pressure
– A family history of cervical cancer
– You have had five or more pregnancies
– Genital herpes
– A family or personal history of uterus infections
– A heart rhythm disorder
– You are at or less than 37 weeks along
– Labor issues caused by a small pelvis
How Is Pitocin Administered During Labor?
To start with, the doctor will take a complete physical exam. They will look at the contraction pattern, the dilation of the cervix and how far the baby has traveled along the birth canal. The doctor will also analyze how the baby’s heart responds to contractions to decide if the baby can physically handle stronger contractions.
Next, the doctor will decide if it will be safe and effective to augment labor with pitocin. When the body does not naturally make enough oxytocin, synthetic forms like pitocin may be used. If the doctor decides to administer pitocin, they will generally pump it through an IV line into the mother. The dosage will normally be given in small doses at first that increase as the uterus begins to respond. How much the drug is increased will depend on how dilated the cervix is, the term of the pregnancy and how far apart contractions are. Contractions ideally should be at about every three or five following ten minutes.
Now that pitocin has been administered, the goal is to get the cervix to dilate through contractions so that the baby can travel down the birth canal. The doctor does not want to put any extra stress on the baby by making too long or too frequent of contractions. If contractions last for more than two minutes, they are considered too long. With this in mind, the doctor will monitor the duration and frequency of contractions. At the same time, they will monitor the baby through a fetal monitor to make sure that there are not any problems.