What is Pitocin?

iv-bagPitocin is a medicine that acts like oxytocin, a hormone your body makes to help start labor contractions.  When used, it is administered in the hospital by an IV drip and the dosage is regulated, gradually increasing until labor progresses well.

Contractions, which signal the beginning of childbirth, are when the muscles of your uterus get tight and then relax. They help push your baby out of your uterus (womb). If you’ve ever had a baby, you know and never will forget what contractions are like. But if you’re a first time mom, you might not be too sure in early labor if what you’re experiencing is the real deal.  You can read about contractions and the different stages of labor on our web site.

Sometimes labor begins but doesn’t move along as well as doctors like.  A woman’s water may have broken, but contractions have not started.  Labor may have slowed down or the contractions just may not be strong enough to move labor forward. In these cases, health care providers may use Pitocin to strengthen the contractions.  Other times it may be medically necessary, for the health of the baby or the mother, to induce labor that has not yet begun. This is often the case with women who have reached 42 weeks gestation. Giving the mother Pitocin can induce labor.

If you’re pregnant and your doctor wants to give you something to help your labor progress, you should start having labor contractions shortly after you begin Pitocin. Depending on the dosage you receive, it can make your contractions very strong and may lower your baby’s heart rate.  So, your provider will carefully monitor your baby’s heart rate for changes and adjust the amount of Pitocin you get, if needed.

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