Pitocin vs. Oxytocin: Their Role In Labor

When a health care provider wants to trigger the labor immediately, Pitocin is used as a medication for inducing labor. It is a synthetic form of the naturally produced hormone, oxytocin. Oxytocin is produced in the body naturally to cause labor and dilation of the cervix. Both the hormones are the same in their chemical form but there is a difference in how the body reacts to each one in particular. 

What Is the Role of Oxytocin in Labor?

In impulsive labor, the goal of oxytocin is to control the uterine muscle contractions that instigate labor. This hormone is developed by the mother and the baby and the mother responds to the hormone differently because each one of the hormones has distinguished jobs. 

When the baby is about to come out, the mother’s body generates a huge amount of oxytocin. This natural hormonal burst, also known as fetal ejection reflex, pushes the baby outwards so that it comes out easily through the birth canal. 

How And When Is Pitocin Induced Medically?

Beginning the labor with artificial medical help such as Pitocin is used in nearly one-quarter of the natural births in the US. Pitocin is used by doctors when the physical health of the mother or the child relies on it. Check out the reasons why labor is induced artificially:

• If the baby has the condition of intrauterine growth restriction where he does not grow as per the expectations, he might require neonatal care right after birth.

• Reduced levels of amniotic fluid: in the last few hours before delivery the amniotic fluid gushes out of the womb little by little. Thus, leaving the baby in an unsuitable environment can be dangerous.

• Little or no baby movement: the baby jumps and kicks every second in the last hours before delivery. If the situation is the opposite, this can be an indication of fetal distress and might require instant delivery.

• Preeclampsia: it is a disorder where the mother suffers from high blood pressure right at birth leading to serious complications in the delivery.

Oxytocin Initiates The Endorphin Release

Unlike oxytocin, Pitocin is injected into your bloodstream through an IV and its regulation is controlled by a pump. This way you receive a balanced amount of the synthetic hormone in a regular mode. 

Although a pump controls the mechanism there are still possibilities that the contractions take place for longer periods and get intense. If not examined on time, this can get complications for the mother and the baby. 

When you induce the Pitocin hormone through a pump regulator, your natural oxytocin boost can be lowered at the birth phase. This will instigate the baby to stay in the birth canal for a time that can certainly lead to health problems and complications for the baby like lack of oxygen supply.

When you naturally enter the labor stage, you will notice that your body is reacting to the oxytocin hormone and contractions positively. Your body will release endorphins, a type of morphine during delivery that helps prevent women from the extraordinary pain during childbirth. 

Cervical Dilation With Pitocin And Oxytocin

In terms of cervical dilation, Pitocin is quite slow and less effective as compared to the natural hormone, oxytocin. This means Pitocin is required in large amounts for cervical dilation and childbirth than oxytocin. This is one major reason why labor can take up a lot of time and get exhausting with Pitocin. 

According to a study, injecting Pitocin can increase your chances of developing serious labor complications like uterine rupture and stillbirth because of the long and strenuous labor. It also increases your chances of emergency c-section deliveries.

What is the Role of Oxytocin Post-Delivery?

Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, encourages your bond with your baby post-delivery. Pitocin disturbs the natural oxytocin production and release in the body during labor, it also interferes with the bonding procedure. 

Production of oxytocin in your body during labor is important as it promotes breastmilk development after delivery. Whereas, Pitocin when used, it delays the production of a natural hormone, oxytocin. The delayed oxytocin release can further get you complications in breastmilk production.

How Can You Increase Oxytocin Levels Naturally?

Breastfeeding, cuddling your newborn, lovemaking, and skin to skin direct contact can help initiate the production of oxytocin naturally that can help you deal with all problems.


If you are given an option to choose between Pitocin and oxytocin, remember to discuss all the queries why this option is best suited for your easy delivery. Your physician will conduct tests to examine if induction of Pitocin is suitable for you and the baby and then go ahead with the process for a safe and healthy delivery.

Farha Naaz

Farha Naaz is a mother of a 10-month old baby.

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