"A British midwife told a researcher that the sounds women make when they're on artificial oxytocin [Pitocin] are hauntingly different: 'It's a panic, it's a scream and it's different from the noise they make when they're working with their bodies. . . . It sounds like someone's being murdered'" (p. 135).Pitocin use in U.S. hospitals has increased alarmingly in the past couple of decades. In 1990, only 9.5% of labors were induced. In 2006, in a study of 5500 low-risk, first-time mothers, 40% were induced and 70% received Pitocin at some point during labor (see Pushed, p. 5-6).
"And with an epidural deadening the body's natural pain threshold, staff can keep upping the dose, which can lead to contractions that fire like a machine gun or that last for minutes, during which time the fetus is oxygen-deprived. This is called hyperstimulation. It is not uncommon and would be considered a trauma--beyond what is normal" (p. 137).
"A recent ACOG survey found that in 43% of malpractice suits involving neurologically impaired babies, Pitocin was to blame" (p. 137).
"Even Williams Obstetrics offers a sobering history: 'Oxytocin is a powerful drug, and it has killed or maimed mothers through rupture of the uterus and even more babies through hypoxia from markedly hypertonic uterine contractions'" (p. 138).
"A 2004 study out of Australia found that autistic children were twice as likely to have been born without natural labor, either by elective cesarean or induction" (p. 139).
I can see these stats reflected all around me. I know very few women who have given birth without Pitocin dripping through their veins. If it's true that 70% of low-risk first-time mothers are given Pitocin, then it's no wonder birth horror stories and epidural use are the norm. How strange that so few women know what normal birth actually feels like. Instead they have a warped and painfully skewed misrepresentation. We are human beings, but yet so far removed from the most basic human experience.
The truth is that we really don't know how these highly-medicalized births may be influencing and possibly damaging our society. Oxytocin is the hormone of bonding and love, so some suspect that these births (virtually devoid of natural oxytocin) may be partly to blame for the increased violence, autism, and other mental and psychological disorders running rampant in our modern world. Pitocin (and cesarean sections) may also influence how we bond and how we respond to our children as parents.
I've never had Pitocin in labor, but I was given Pitocin through my IV following my first daughter's birth to help slow my bleeding. It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that I had an epiphany about that Pitocin drip. It's almost certain that once Pitocin was introduced into my system, my body stopped or slowed its own oxytocin production. Artificial oxytocin doesn't produce the same bonding effects as the hormone produced by our own bodies. It wasn't until roughly a week after her birth that I "fell in love" with my daughter. I thought there was something wrong with me... why didn't I love her right away? I'm now quite certain that Pitocin interfered.
There are certainly plenty of women who fell in love with their babies at first sight even with Pitocin or cesareans. But not all women do. Everyone's individual body chemistry is unique. If I could struggle even having had an unmedicated, wonderful birth experience, I have to wonder what it would have been like for me if I'd had drugs or a cesarean... I shudder to think where those paths might have taken me...
Then I contrast those struggles with my most recent birth, and I'm in awe. As my births have gotten progressively more "natural," bonding has gotten progressively easier. And my parenting style has gotten progressively more responsive. I spent the first couple of weeks after my son's birth feeling blissed-out and totally and madly in love with him. In fact, I could hardly bear to be separated from him. What a change from my Pitocin-jolted postpartum experience!
Pitocin has its time and place. But there's no question that it--and the droves of women and babies receiving it needlessly--are being abused. Will we stand by and let this abuse continue?