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Pitocin is a drug that is commonly used to induce or augment labor in the United States and many other countries. How does pitocin work, in which situations is it used, and how will your labor feel if it is induced or augmented in this way? Whether you are just curious, or are facing induction with pitocin, here is some basic information about this drug.

What is pitocin?

Pitocin is a liquid medication administered through an IV. It is a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, which among other things also causes naturally contractions. Pitocin can be delivered in various amounts, and will cause contractions to either start or speed up artificially.

Why is it used?

Pitocin is the most commonly used drug for labor induction. Reasons to induce labor include pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia that require the baby to be born as soon as possible, and being overdue. Another reason to use pitocin is the rupture of membranes (water breaking) without the start of contractions. Women who are already having contractions, but whose labor is progressing very slowly, may be given pitocin to augment their labor and speed things up.

What are the risks?

Many women experience pitocin contractions much more heavily than natural contractions. Because of the additional pain, many women who have received pitocin opt to have epidural anesthesia. There is an increased chance of fetal distress with pitocin, something that could cause the need for a c-section. There is also a higher chance of uterine rupture with pitocin. Like other medications, there is also the chance that you are allergic to pitocin. Discussing the risks and benefits of pitocin with your doctor in advance will give you a better idea of what to expect. The benefits and risks are dependent on your individual situation.

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