Pitocin for augmenting labor vs. inducing labor

OBGYN Lauren Hyman, MD, explains the differences between using piton to augment labor and induce labor and how pitocin can be helpful during labor when contractions are petering out
Pitocin - Augmenting Labor vs. Inducing Labor
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Pitocin for augmenting labor vs. inducing labor

A lot of people are very concerned about the idea of receiving Pitocin during labor. When you come in to the hospital, presumably your bag of water is broken or you are in active labor. But, sometimes, after the bag of water has been broken for quite a while or once your labor has started that does not progress, something needs to be done to get your labor either kick started in the case of breaking your bag of water or augmented in the case of your labor stalling out. In this case, a doctor might use Pitocin to help get the contractions either going or coming closer and stronger so that labor can actually be adequate. Here's the deal. While it might be nice to have a baby contracting every 10 minutes. And, where sometime this does occur, generally contractions need to be coming every 2 to 3 minutes and have to be stronger. We actually look on a scale and they have to be over 50, the unit we use is month of the day of unit, in order to actually allow labor to occur, actually allow the cervix to dilate. And, sometimes, even when a woman has come in and the labor has been going strong, the labor can stall out and Pitocin may need to be used. What is Pitocin? Pitocin is a hormone the same Oxytocin that's produced by the brain that's causing the uterus to contract. So, Oxytocin is produced naturally by the woman's body and Pitocin is a synthetic form of the same hormone. What's wonderful about Pitocin is that goes in to your IV and it can be stopped and started. It can be increased and decreased based on the strength of the contractions needed and based on if anything is going on with the fetal heart rate tracing that might be concerning. In other words, that the contractions are too strong, the nurses can back off on the Pitocin. If the contractions are hot and heavy, the nurse can continue the Pitocin at the same rate. And, if the contractions are not strong enough, the nurse can increase the Pitocin. It is not uncommon for women who are in labor to need Pitocin to help augment that labor. And, you might say, "Okay. Well, what if I don't want it?" That's fine, but your labor may not progress and you may be committing yourself to a Caesarean section where when adding a little bit of Pitocin to help the contractions become adequate might enable you to have the vaginal birth that you went in to the hospital to have. I had Pitocin with my first pregnancy. I went in in labor. I was contracting beautifully. And, then, guess what? After 4 to 5 centimeters, my contractions petered out. I had a little Pitocin. My contractions got stronger, closer together. I was able to have my baby from below. So, Pitocin is not an evil drug. If you don't need it, you certainly don't need to get it. But, if your contractions aren't doing what they need to be doing, it's easier to have Pitocin to get your contractions going again than to commit yourself to a procedure that you don't want.

OBGYN Lauren Hyman, MD, explains the differences between using piton to augment labor and induce labor and how pitocin can be helpful during labor when contractions are petering out


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Lauren D. Hyman, MD

Obstetrician Gynecologist

Dr. Lauren Hyman is a board-certified obstetrician gynecologist. After receiving her ScB from Brown University and her medical degree from Yale University, Dr. Hyman returned to Southern California where she has been in private practice in the West Hills area for fifteen years. She can be seen weekly on Hallmark Channelʼs Home and Family Pregnancy Series and is a contributing writer on mom.me. She lives with her husband and two children in Los Angeles.

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