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Pitocin May Harm Babies, Study Says

by Alison Wood | June 5, 2013 12:00 AM0 Comments

Scheduling a baby's birth has become so commonplace in the past several years that pregnant women as well as obstetricians rarely seem to think through the side effects of inducing labor.

Many women in our modern society desire to have more control over the timing of their baby's birth, and thus opt for an induction. Some women may also want to ensure their baby is born before Dec. 31 for tax purposes. Others may choose to have their labor induced simply because they want the entire family to be present for the baby's birth. However, there are many known risks to a mother if the popular drug, Pitocin, is not administered correctly during labor. Pitocin is the synthetic brand name for the natural occurring hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin causes a woman's uterus to contract during labor as well as after delivery to prevent hemorrhaging. It is also released when a mother breast-feeds.

Pitocin is typically used to start labor, re-start stalled labor or strengthen weak contractions to get things moving more quickly.

After a woman is admitted to the hospital, a nurse or doctor will then begin to administer Pitocin through an IV. The IV is connected to a pump that regulates the amount of Pitocin given during a certain time period. Many nurses will start off with a smaller amount and gradually increase the amount, and as contractions become steady, discontinue the administration of Pitocin. A woman that is receiving Pitocin should be closely monitored by doctors or nurses during the entire induction process.

The maternal risks with using Pitocin are as follows:

  • Water intoxication
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Abnormal sodium levels
  • Increased risk for uterine rupture

Even though the risks to a mother can be very serious, they are quite rare. However, a new study has shown that newborns can also be affected by this synthetic hormone.

Michael S. Tsimis, MD and other researchers at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City began to study, record and compare more than 3,000 labors and deliveries that were assisted by the drug Pitocin. These women delivered their babies between the years of 2009 and 2011. The researchers measured the results and tracked illness and death rates associated with Pitocin.

Used alone and without any other complications or health risks, Pitocin did indeed prove to be a risk to the newborn's health. In fact, it resulted in newborns spending at least 24 hours in the NICU and receiving lower Apgar scores.

Apgar scores are simple measurements to determine if a newborn is healthy or not. The baby is graded on appearance, pulse, reflexes, muscle tone and respiration. Many of the babies whose mothers received Pitocin during labor had scores seven and under. A healthy baby's Apgar score begins at 8.

Dr. Tsimis affirmed that the study proves that medical indications and directions should be followed closely when administering the drug Pitocin.

On the contrary, Pitocin can also be a life-saver. As a mother goes past her due date, the risks of needing a caesarean elevate. Also, if a mother is experiencing stalled labor, she and her baby are at risk for serious infection that could have disastrous results. In these circumstances, Pitocin is still the best route to take for the safety of mom and baby.

Pitocin is also a life-saver for women that are at risk for hemorrhaging after birth. Breast-feeding immediately after delivery can also reduce hemorrhaging.

Before making your decision to have your labor induced, discuss these issues with your doctor. Do not hesitate to let him or her know your concerns and worries. It is best to make the decision before you are forced to make one in an emergency. Don't forget that the best decision will have the health of the baby as well as the mother as the main concern.

Source: ABC News

Alison Wood is a stay-at-home mom of six and freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys raising her six children and desires to share her experiences to help other mothers.

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