Labor Plans

Oxytocin

Oxytocin is one of the hormones that plays a part in the labor process. Injecting your body with synthetic oxytocin is expected to cause uterine contractions. It may be used to start labor, speed up a slow labor, or to cause the uterus to clamp down and stop bleeding after your baby and placenta are born.

Oxytocin is a love hormone. It is released during breastfeeding and by both males and females during orgasm. Oxytocin is one of the hormones responsible for the loving bonds that form between people.

Synthtic oxytocin is a clear liquid that is injected into an intravenous drip. It can be found under the name Pitocin, syntocinon or generic oxytocin. Pitocin is the trademark name that King Pharmaceuticals uses for its synthetic oxytocin. Dr. Michel Odent points out several important differences between naturally occurring oxytocin and synthetic forms. A major difference is that the naturally occurring oxytocin is released in pulses while synthetic administration is continuous. According to Dr. Odent, this may be one of the reasons doses of the synthetic hormone must be so much higher than what occurs naturally. Additionally, it is unable to cross the blood-brain barrier. The naturally occurring form is created in the brain and so is able to affect behavior before being released into the blood stream. The synthetic form does not have an opportunity to affect the brain and so is not able to encourage the bonding between new families.

Potential Benefits

According to A guide to effective care in pregnancy an childbirth, oxytocin is slower to work than prostaglandin preparations at producing contractions. However, the short half-life of oxytocin (about 15 mintues) allows it to be stopped if the uterus becomes over stimulated or baby shows signs of distress. Synthetic oxytocin is cheaper and easier to store than the more effective prostaglandin E2 preparations, making it more easily available.

Risks for Mother

Risks for Baby

References:

Goer, Henci. The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. 1999. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group.
Enkin, Keirse, Nilson, Crowther, Duley, Hodnett and Hofmeyr. A guide to effective care in pregnancy and childbirth Third Edition. 2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Odent, Michel. Drips of synthetic oxytocin. http://www.wombecology.com/oxytocin.html. Downloaded January 1, 2008.