Pitocin – Used and Abused

In Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May Gaskins (the worlds leading midwife) tackles the over use of drugs in the hospital birth setting. We will delve into these drugs one by one but today’s discussion will focus on pitocin.

Pitocin is the synthetic form of oxytocin (the body’s natural feel good drug). Oxytocin, commonly known as “the love hormone”,  is released during labor to facilitate childbirth. Triggered by the widening of the cervix and vagina, it is released in large amounts during child-birth and lactation. Oxytocin is also the cause of uterine contractions during labor as well as the facilitator of maternal bonding. Production of this hormone also occurs when we fall in love. It promotes feelings of relaxation, trust and psychological stability.

Pitocin is advertised as being identical to oxytocin but that is false. Pitocin, extracted from the pituitary gland of various animals combined with acetic acid and chloretone, takes the “love” out of the “love drug”. The female body releases oxytocin in small bursts as needed throughout the labor process which in turn helps make labor pain more bearable as contractions intensify. Pitocin, illegally used to electively induce labor, does not allow labor to progress naturally in this same way. Instead, through an ongoing IV drip, pitocin bombards the body, contractions intensify and the metabolic pathway for oxytocin production is blocked. Basically, in an attempt to rush your labor, doctors are willing to put your body through the ringer. As you can imagine, the administering of pitocin makes labor much more painful than it should to be, so much so that doctors usually have to administer yet another drug known as the epidural for pain management (but that’s a discussion for another time).

Dr. Roberto Caldreyo-Barcia (former president of the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) stated in the 1980s that  “Pitocin is the most abused drug in the world today.” With its use only being necessary in 3% of labors, he claimed it was used anywhere between 12% – 60% of births. Time and time again it has been cautioned that pitocin should only be used WHEN MEDICALLY NECESSARY, yet it continues to be routinely administered today. Did you know that in 1978 New York State passed a public health law requiring all physicians and midwives to fully disclose and require consent from laboring mothers to use drugs during labor and delivery? Yet many mothers report not even being aware that they were given pitocin, much less told of its potential risks.

Here’s the truth:

  • Pitocin is NOT APPROVED by the FDA in elective (not medically necessary) inductions because of its 40-50% failure rate.
  • Pitocin causes longer stronger and more painful contractions which can cause oxygen deprivation for the fetus. This in turn causes fetal distress and usually leads to emergency c-sections. With the cost of an uncomplicated c-section averaging 5-6 thousand more than an uncomplicated vaginal birth, we can see the incentive for gearing mothers towards cesarians (again another discussion for another time)
  • The simple fact that this drug can cause oxygen deprivation to a fetus leads to a plethora of possible problems for your baby ranging from cerebral palsy to various social disabilities.

There are safe natural alternatives to inducing labor including but not limited to:

  • Sex, orgasms facilitate oxytocin production and sperm has a thinning effect on the cervical lining
  • Herbs
  • Walking, dancing
  • Massage, acupuncture
  • Castor oil


*This in no way replaces advice from your physician or midwife, please consult your healthcare providers.
















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