If you were a fly on the wall on a Labor & Delivery floor, you would see a bag of Pitocin or Synthetic Oxytocin being hooked up to a majority of the IVs on the floor. For some, Pitocin is absolutely necessary to stop a serious hemorrhage, but why is it being used routinely for women that are having perfectly normal postpartum lochia?
Postpartum hemorrhages are responsible for about a quarter of maternal deaths worldwide, so it is absolutely a valid fear for birthing women, babies, and providers. About 1-5% of birthing women have a postpartum hemorrhage.
We also must factor in and unpack the fact that many hemorrhages ARE iatrogenic, aka caused by the providers themselves. Ripping a woman’s placenta out two minutes postpartum is not acceptable unless there is a true emergency. Pitocin, while effective at ceasing a hemorrhage in progress, can also cause a hemorrhage, when used to force uterine contractions over a long period of time, by hyper-stimulating the uterus.
What Causes Postpartum Hemorrhage?
Are there pre-disposing factors to hemorrhaging? Kind of. Black women are more likely to hemorrhage than white women, due to routine poor provider care, and a higher chance of iatrogenic-induced complications. If you have a history of hemorrhage, you are more likely to hemorrhage again. Poor nutrition may also pre-dispose a woman to hemorrhage, depending on the deficiencies.
If we reflect on the above statistic again, that an estimated 1-5% of birthing women hemorrhage, that leaves a fair 95% that DO NOT, so why are we routinely administering Pitocin to prevent hemorrhage, when we can simply treat hemorrhage when and if it occurs?
What are the Risks of Using Pitocin?
The reasons we feel Pitocin should not be used preventatively include mental wellbeing, breastfeeding, and supply/demand purposes.
Pitocin is related to a 36% increase in postpartum mood disorders, including depression and anxiety, and with the prevalence of mood disorders being 1 in 7 REPORTED cases, we seriously feel that providers should be taking this more seriously.
Pitocin can interrupt the flow of natural hormones, after all, it is derived from pig hormones these days. This can also disturb the natural placental delivery, and the breastfeeding relationship by disrupting the physiological process involved in one, the other, or both.
Now, onto the supply and demand reason. When you utilize a valuable resource on someone that does not need it, it is obviously a waste of a resource, making it a waste of time, money, and creating a gap that needs to be filled in the supplies. This leads to lower quality product because hospitals desperately have to keep replenishing, for those that are actually in need, and then continue to use the product on those who DO NOT need it. If you have a person on your left dying of dehydration, and a person on your right that just drank two cups of water, and you only have one cup of water, are you going to give both of them a half cup, or would you rather give the dehydrated individual all of the water, since the other person is fine and well-hydrated already? I think the answer is obvious, myself. I would much rather those that genuinely need Pitocin to receive higher quality Pitocin from a safe source, than for everyone to receive lower-quality Pitocin, preventatively.
For my animal-loving friends, it also must be pretty unimagineable how many pigs must be used and abused to keep the Pitocin manufacturers up to speed on supplying…
Also be mindful that Pitocin administration postpartum does not only occur in hospital settings, there are MANY midwives that routinely administer Pitocin injected intramuscularly, postpartum, so be sure to discuss this with your midwife if you are having a home or birth center birth, as well.
To address the title, we compared Pitocin to episiotomies because for a very long time, episiotomies were seen as absolutely necessary, to PREVENT tears. This is exactly what is happening with Pitocin as well, it is being used to PREVENT something that may never happen. Now, the ACOG organization advocates against the use of episiotomies in any scenario, allowing the body to naturally tear and stitching/repairing as needed. It would be optimal for everyone to use Pitocin the same way.
Should Pitocin be used in an emergency, despite the risks? ABSOLUTELY. It just does not need to be used for every single person that just had a baby.
Take control of your birth, and stay educated.