Study On The Dangers Of Pitocin Perhaps Illuminates Why My Birth Was So Terrible

newborn baby with doctorsAccording to new research presented at the annual clinical meeting of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there are concerns that Pitocin, the brand of oxytocin most commonly used to induce or augment labor, may cause serious health concerns for newborn babies. Which doesn’t surprise me at all considering my own checkered history with the drug.

This study, presented by Dr. Michael S. Tsimis, is the first to take a serious look at the affects of Pitocin on newborns:

“As a community of practitioners, we know the adverse effects of Pitocin from the maternal side,” Dr. Tsimis said, “but much less so from the neonatal side. These results suggest that Pitocin use is associated with adverse effects on neonatal outcomes. It underscores the importance of using valid medical indications when Pitocin is used.”

The potential risks for the mother are already well-known, especially among natural childbirth advocates.

Pitocin is the most commonly used drug for induction and according to the CDC, 23 percent of all births are induced and many more women are given the drug to augment a lagging labor to speed things along.

Using the Adverse Outcome Index, Dr. Tsimis’s study looked at the medical records of over 3,000 women who had full-term babies at Beth Israel hospital between the years of 2009 and 2011. The research suggests that the highest risk factor is for infants who are admitted to the NICU for more than one day. There was also correlation between using Pitocin to augment labor and Apgar scores of seven and below. An Apgar score of eight and above is considered good health, anything lower may signal a health issue.

The researchers are quick to say that they aren’t trying to dissuade people from using Pitocin. They simply want to encourage further investigation into its use, but I certainly won’t be using it again.

Out of three live births, I was only given Pitocin once — and I experienced the worst childbirth out of my three kids.

I was given Pitocin to speed up my already steadily progressing labor. The pain was horrendous, my blood pressure skyrocketed, I had issues breathing and my heart rate became erratic. My contractions came unnaturally fast and when my daughter was born she had a lowered Apgar score at five minutes as well as jaundice.

After giving birth I ballooned up due to swelling, which lasted for days. The worst part was that I wasn’t given a choice in the matter. My doctor ordered it given to me without consulting me and then looked at me like I was crazy when I questioned it.

I can’t say for sure that it was Pitocin that caused these issues, but what I do know is that my other two births went off without a hitch.

(Photo: emin kuliyev / Shutterstock)

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  • Guerrilla Mom

    Thanks for reminding me to put my foot down about this. God, I’m getting nervous for this labor :/

    • Annie

      Don’t stress. I know it’s easier said than done, but make a concentrated effort to sit down, take a deep breath from your nose and exhale slowly from your mouth, and picture as clearly as your imagination allows yourself holding that brand new baby. When you get really anxious just do these breathing exercises and conjure your mental image. <3

    • Frances Locke

      Don’t worry, everything will be okay. And you are so informed about everything. When I went through this I was wayy too timid about everything. If I knew then what I know know it would have gone differently I think.

  • Courtney Lynn

    I was also given Pitocin. Because the OB on rotation that night wanted to rush things, I would up with my son in distress and an unplanned c-section. I didn’t progress ass he had hoped, my labor carried over into the next Ob’s shift and she was left to clean up his mess. it’s a very long story, but it was a horrible experience.

    • Frances Locke

      I’m sorry for what you went through. I think there is a huge issue with doctors not listen to our concerns when it comes to labor and delivery.

    • Courtney Lynn

      They don’t and neither did my nurse that I had the majority of the time. The first nurse I had was great and she was only with us a few hours until her shift ended. When I told my mother-in-law (who is also a hospital nurse) about how poorly I was treated, she flipped! They live overseas so it wasn’t like she could have been there, but I would have loved for her to have been there with me.

  • Jayamama

    This is exactly why I had a planned home birth with my first, and am planning another with my current pregnancy. I’m not saying that there aren’t great hospitals and doctors out there, but at least at home, I know that I’m not going to have to deal with unnecessary interventions and doctors deciding what’s best without consulting me. This is the exact reason why I’m so scared of hospitals. Especially the ones in my area.

    • KB

      Glad to see another home birth mama here! :)

  • NeuroNerd

    It appears that the original research has not yet been published (at least, I couldn’t find it on pubmed). According to the ACOG statement, it seems like this study was a chart review. Chart reviews are great for noticing trends, but we can’t actually draw conclusive evidence from them, because the data is “messy”.

    Post-dates deliveries and long labors are also associated with adverse outcomes, so it’s possible that this might be a chicken-and-egg problem. Although the findings suggest more research is needed to reassess safety, without being able to read the full methods, the findings are far from conclusive in my eyes. For example, did they compare women in similar situations (post-dates) who had augmentation vs those who did not, or did they compare a group of women who had Pitocin augmentation to women who had augmentation with other methods. Did they compare post-dates augmentation to spontaneous labor with post-dates delivery? I’d be interested to revisit this when the paper is published and we know more than a media blurb.

  • Eve Vawter

    I had it with all 3 births, and I’m sorry you had a bad reaction. I just know it made me labor SUPER hardcore

    • Courtney Lynn

      I told my husband that the labor pains felt like I had the worst gas imaginable and couldn’t fart, but just wait for it to go away.

  • LadyClodia

    With my first son my water broke with no signs of natural labor (I’d never had Braxton Hicks contractions,) so they started me on Pitocin right away. It was unpleasant, and I blacked out from the pain (a very late stage epidural allowed me to remember his birth, but didn’t do much for the pain,) but I progressed pretty quickly, and he was born 6 hours later. With our second son I had still never had Braxton Hicks contractions, and it looked like history would probably repeat itself, so I day after his due date I had an elective induction. That one was much more pleasant because I got an epidural early on, and he was born 4 hours after starting the induction. They both had great Apgar scores, and I know I was lucky to have had short labors. My mom said that with me her water broke and she never went into labor and they waited 72 hours before inducing her, and I was born about 3 hours after she was induced. She never went into natural labor with my younger brother after her water broke either, but they induced her quickly because she had developed a staph infection. Pitocin can be necessary, but it’s probably used too often, and I personally wouldn’t recommend it unless it was a necessity.

  • cathy

    i had a great experience with pitocin, helped my lazy cervix catch up with the baby who had been ready to roll for hours! three pushes and done. the doctors were very sensitive, and even more so the nurses were very realistic about good versus useless interventions. it has its uses but, like everything, it could use more research and investigation.

  • Cassy

    Just like many medications with serious side effects, I think Pitocin can certainly be useful, but it is obviously overused. It sounds like a horrible experience in your case, which royally sucks. But not everyone has a terrible experience with Pitocin, and I definitely don’t think it should be taken out of birthing rooms entirely.

    I was given Pitocin after I had already been pushing for awhile, because my contractions would’t regulate out. Some were one right after another, and some were 7-8 minutes apart. So they give me the lowest dose (slowest drip) possible to give me some more regular contractions to push with. And, by the way, they asked my permission first.

    Informed and warranted use can be helpful. It’s unfortunate that much of the time, it’s administered needlessly, or too much, which is obviously hurtful.