A new study in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Gynaecology confirms what many who have undergone a hospital birth already know: the use of the labor-inducing drug Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) leads to great pain and suffering, including serious unintended and adverse health effects to both mother and infant.
The study looked at trends in oxytocin use for women in New South Wales noting an overall increase of oxytocin use from 10,291 (36.5%) of births in 1998 to 14,440 (45.4%) in 2008, and which was linked to the following outcomes:
- Increased use of regional analgesia (65 vs. 22% control group*)
- Increased use of instruments for delivery (21 to 18% control group*)
- Increased use of Cesarean section (29 to 14% control group*)
*control group did not receive oxytocin
The researchers concluded that synthetic oxytocin use increased "severe" maternal and neonatal morbidity.
There are a number of disturbing implications to this study, but let’s start with the fact that the use of oxytocin doubled the incidence of Cesarean. Any medical intervention which can double the incidence of major surgery, should be evaluated closely – especially if the birth induction is not medically necessary, as is often the case with C-section.
A cesarean delivery has actually been linked to over 30 adverse health effects, not the least of which is a significant increase in infant mortality. Their global prevalence is epidemic in proportion, and occurs in at least 30 percent of all US births.
The oxytocin itself has the following well-known potential side effects in the mother, as reported by the manufacturer’s drug insert:
- Anaphylactic reaction
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Fatal afibrinogenemia
- Premature ventricular contractions
- Pelvic hematoma
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage
- Hypertensive episodes
- Rupture of the uterus
According to the same drug insert, the infant may suffer from the intensification of uterine contractions or "motility" in the following ways:
- Premature ventricular contractions
- and other arrhythmias
- Permanent CNS or brain damage
- Fetal death
- Neonatal seizures have been reported
Another problem with oxytocin is its potential role in the pathogenesis of autism disorders. This connection was described in 2004 in an article published in the journal Medical Hypothesis:
"OT [oxytocin] administration at birth, could contribute to the development of autistic spectrum disorders and related syndromes by proposed down regulation of the OT receptor (OTR). In this review, recent molecular evidence for OTR internalization by excess OT is related to OT's reported effects on animal social behavior, favoring social bondage, notably in sheep, voles, rats and especially mice. Adding indications for OT's capability of crossing the maternal placenta and OT's possibility of crossing an underdeveloped or stressed infantile blood brain barrier at birth, a causal connection between OT excess and behavioral disorders such as autism can be supported from a molecular perspective."
Add in the well-known variable of Hepatitis B vaccination only hours after birth, and it is likely that a combination of environmental insults (many preventable and iatrogenic) have contributed to the autism epidemic.
Another serious problem raised by this latest study is that oxytocin increased the use of regional anesthesia (e.g. epidural/spinal) by close to 300%. This is likely a direct result of the enhanced pain caused by the oxytocin-induced intensification of uterine contractions, and carries with it additional risks for both mother and child. Beyond the fact that blood and oxygen to the brain may be seriously reduced, the infant is exposed to anesthesia agents, and does not yet have adequate detoxification systems in place to remove them. Nor is the blood-brain barrier developed, making the risk of anesthetic drug-induced neurotoxicity inevitable. Research has demonstrated that other physiological parameters in the infant are in fact altered through the use of regional anesthesia, including:
- Fetal pH and base excess decreased
- Umbilical arterial oxygen content decreased
- Umbilical venous Po2 [pulmonary venous blood oxygen] increased.
Ultimately, as research accumulates on synthetic oxytocin, we are faced with a critical decision. Do we increasingly rely on medical interventions to assist – or supplant – the natural process of birth eons in the making? And if we do, what are the unintended, adverse effects? One thing is clear. The use of labor-inducing medication may carry far more risks to health than presently believed. It is important to share this information with those who may have not been informed properly before giving their consent to such procedures and/or interventions.
For additional research on Natural Child Birth related research visit our page on the topic.