Pros and Cons of Using Pitocin to Induce Labor

Updated May 25, 2019
Woman in labor

Your doctor may recommend the medication Pitocin to induce labor. While this method is commonly used by doctors, it is still important that expectant parents are aware of the pros and cons of using Pitocin for induction of labor.

What Is Pitocin?

Pitocin is the brand name for synthetic oxytocin. The natural hormone oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland throughout the pregnancy. When it's time to deliver, this hormone will stimulate your uterus to have contractions during labor.

Induce or Strengthen Labor

However, if you have not started labor naturally or your labor has slowed or stalled, Pitocin will be administered to induce labor or to strengthen the contractions (known as augmentation) to keep labor on track. If you were given an epidural, this can also slow down your labor or weaken your contractions and your doctor may have to give you Pitocin to help move things along.

Use After Delivery

After delivering your baby, your doctor may give you Pitocin as well to encourage contractions that will help deliver your placenta quickly and in turn keep bleeding to a minimum.

How Is Pitocin Given?

Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) is given via an IV. Your doctor will start the dosage of medication low and increase the amount being given every half an hour. These increased amounts of Pitocin will continue until your contractions are only a minute or two apart and very strong.

Pitocin works best if the cervix is already dilated and effaced. If your cervix has not begun dilating, your doctor may opt to use a cervical ripening agent so Pitocin will work better.

Why Pitocin May Be Used for Inductions

Labor inductions are fairly common and performed for a number of medical reasons including:

  • If your membranes have ruptured (water has broken) and contractions have not begun
  • If you go two weeks past your due date and the doctor feels you and your baby are at risk
  • If your placenta is not functioning properly and not providing nutrients or oxygen to the baby as it should
  • If your baby has fetal growth restriction, and the estimated weight is below the 10th percentile for gestational age
  • If you have preeclampsia
  • If you have gestational diabetes
  • If you have high blood pressure
  • If you have low amniotic fluid
  • If you have chorionamnionitis, which is an infection of the uterus
  • If you have placenta abruption and the placenta has pulled away from the uterine wall causing pain and bleeding
  • If you have other medical conditions such as, cancer, heart problems, lung problems, kidney disease, obesity

Pros of Pitocin

There are definite benefits to using Pitocin to induce labor which include:

  • Pitocin will jump start labor very quickly and contractions will typically be felt within 30 minutes.
  • Pitocin may make contractions more intense but tends to make labor shorter.
  • If membranes have ruptured, the use of Pitocin has reduced the risk of infection.
  • Pitocin can increase your chances of having a natural delivery.
  • Using Pitocin can be a lifesaving medical intervention.

Cons of Pitocin

At times Pitocin may overstimulate the uterus and cause potential risks which may include:

  • Contractions may come too quickly or too closely.
  • Your baby's heart rate may change or go lower than normal.
  • There is a chance that your baby will go into fetal distress.
  • There is a rare chance of uterine rupture where the uterus tears open on its own or along a scar line.
  • You may have a failed induction and need a C-section.
  • You may experience excessive bleeding after delivery.

There has been a question of an increased risk of autism and the use of Pitocin. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has reported that there is no evidence of a link or relationship between the use of Pitocin for the induction of labor and autism.

Decide if Pitocin Is Right for You

There is much to consider when it comes to Pitocin and deciding if it's right for you. However, be reassured that it's commonly used, and it's generally considered to be safe for use during labor. Your doctor will go over the risks and benefits to help you decide if Pitocin is the best option for induction for you and your baby.

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Pros and Cons of Using Pitocin to Induce Labor