Recent Posts

Friday, May 10, 2013

Newsflash: Pitocin could harm your baby

For some of us, the idea that Pitocin is not exactly a walk in the park is nothing new. So when this official proclamation came from ACOG, a lot of people were like, "Well, duh." 

Apparently this is "the first study of its kind to present data on the adverse effects of Pitocin use on newborns." Considering how deeply entrenched its use has been since its inception as the drug we know today, I find that incredibly shocking.

Unfortunately it seems like either those who swear up and down that it's the Devil's poison end up getting it, or those who are warned "don't induce!" often find out the hard way that in many cases, yes, it does suck as badly as everyone said it would. (Although obviously this is not the case for everyone.)

Back when my niece was expecting her first child, she said she was not planning on inducing but asked for advice about it. I tried to offer my opinion without sounding preachy, and a many of her friends said that in their experience, it was terrible and to avoid it if she could. I don't know what happened, but the next thing I knew, she was getting induced, had a hellish labor, and now apparently doesn't want any more children. *sigh*

What I've noticed is when people are asking about Pit, there are usually tons of people who relay their experiences - some okay, some great, some perfectly horrific and the stuff of nightmares. I'm not one to try and scare women by propagating horror stories, and whenever I speak of this stuff I try to be as balanced as possible. But I can't help but notice that usually, all the dissenters are ignored, their advice chucked to the curb and the mom is induced, sometimes with not so happy results. Sadly, it seems like those who filter out what they don't want to hear seem to have the worst time of it.

Either that, or one of two things happen: a dozen people say, "Well, I had it in labor and did just fine," as if they refuse to believe there is actually a problem. Or, they list the numerous reasons why they needed it in a defensive tone, which is kind of sad. Again, for some women, it's what they need and can really benefit them. But for everyone? I don't believe it.

I think some women get defensive because their hackles immediately go up and they miss the part where, again, it says that for some women, it can be a life-saving, very important drug to have on hand. I also wonder if they are in denial that their doctor could ever give them something that might be unsafe, completely trusting them with their own wellbeing as well as their unborn baby. I'm not necessarily saying that they aren't acting in your best interests, but rather questioning why this needs to be standard fare in so many hospitals today. One source suggested that approximately 81% of women receive Pitocin either to augment or induce labor. 81 percent?!

And because it's become so commonplace, it's perceived as unequivocally safe, a perfectly normal and acceptable routine of labor. If you question it, I highly doubt your doctor or nurse is going to calmly say, "Oh, you don't want it? Okay, that's fine." Administration protocols seem to vary by hospital and doctor, and while some appear to follow perfectly reasonable guidelines (especially the idea that if this isn't working, let's send mom home), others are outrageous - as expressed by nurses who work with these people, not just "natural birth hippie chicks."

From a popular internet forum for nurses. Click to enlarge. 
Some things to consider:
• Sometimes inductions and Pitocin use are completely necessary and the best thing for both mom and baby. If at all possible, perhaps suggest a gentle induction that can get things started in a minimally invasive way. Remember that in first-time moms, inductions can increase the risks of cesarean, although sometimes this is unavoidable. (Pre-eclampsia is a good example.)

• Sometimes it is not necessarily the best course of action but is given anyway. Know that you have rights. Some women do say that while they refused it during their labors, they had it given to them anyway; perhaps hiring a doula or having a birth advocate present with you may help. Some reasons for its use are dubious at best, and can cause more harm than benefit. (For an example, click here.)

• Get all the facts prior to an induction and ask lots of questions. If your doctor starts talking about an induction early on as a matter of course, this could raise some major red flags.

• Throughout its history, it has affected different women differently. This can depend on a number of factors, including how aggressively it's administered. While it can have many benefits, it is not without risk to both mother and baby.

More reading:
Pitocin side effects
Five ways Pitocin is different than oxytocin