Definition - What does Pitocin mean?

Pitocin is the brand name of a synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin, which is mainly used to induce or strengthen labor. Oxytocin is a natural hormone which is produced in the hypothalamus and plays a role in many reproductive functions including sexual activity, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

There is no research showing that the drug has any effects on fertility, but it has been used to aid in emptying the uterus during the termination of some pregnancies.

FertilitySmarts explains Pitocin

The hormone was first identified and synthesized in 1955, during a time when women who experienced stalled labor had to have caesarian sections performed. A study by the World Health Organization has shown that since its introduction, there has been a decrease in cesarean section rates and perinatal deaths.

Pitocin is usually administered if contractions are stalled or to induce labor when the baby or the mother is at risk. The drug is traditionally delivered through IV, and the levels are gradually raised until there are regular contractions which are 2 to 3 minutes apart. It will either be left on until delivery, or it will be tapered or completely shut off.

Pitocin does not induce labor if the cervix has not begun to dilate or soften. It is also used after birth in some patients to stop postpartum bleeding, and it is sometimes used to terminate a pregnancy.

Once placed on Pitocin, the person must be strictly monitored because of its potentially dangerous side effects some of which include:

  • Overstimulation of the uterus
  • Rupture of the uterus
  • Fetal distress
  • Fetal death

Spontaneous labor is always best, but in cases where Pitocin induction might be considered, especially in first-time delivery cases, a doctor or medical practitioner should be consulted to find out more about the requirements, risks, and benefits.

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