Pitocin is a liquid drug that is administered through an IV. It is actually a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, which facilitates contractions during labor. Pitocin is one of the most commonly used medications during labor and delivery but who needs pitocin, and what can it be used for?
Induction of labor
Pitocin can be used to medically induce labor in women who have not started having contractions yet. Medical indications for induction with pitocin can be preeclampsia, or being post-term (over 42 weeks pregnant). Where a woman's cervix has not yet began to dilate and efface, the success rates of pitocin induction are questionable. This procedure can be combined with other inducing measures like rupture of membranes, or stripping membranes.
Women whose labors have started by slowed down or stopped might be given pitocin by their healthcare providers to get labor going once again, or to speed it up. If your bag of waters has broken without contractions starting, pitocin is also an option your risk of infection goes up the longer your membranes have been broken. Many hospitals have a policy of not allowing labor to go on for more than 24 hours after the bag of waters has broken. This is where pitocin comes in.
Delivery of the placenta
Some hospitals actually administer pitocin following the baby's birth routinely. So called active management of the third stage of labor is quite popular, and is said to prevent postpartum hemorrhage. Like with labor, many hospitals have policies that a placenta "must" be delivered within a certain time. Pitocin can speed this process up.
Treating postpartum hemorrhage
Postpartum hemorrhage is heavy bleeding following birth, which needs quick medical attention. Potential complications include the need for a blood transfusion and death. Pitocin can be used as part of the treatment to stop the hemorrhage. Ironically, women who received pitocin during labor are more likely to suffer a postpartum hemorrhage.