There's a fair amount of scientific evidence -- along with tons of anecdotal evidence -- that the routine use of Pitocin to speed or manage labor is a bad idea.
Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin, commonly administered in a steady drip to "keep labor on track," that is, deliver the baby within a timeframe determined by the hospital or doctor, not by the woman's body. In an unmedicated birth, the woman's hypothalamus and pituitary gland deliver spurts of oxytocin to the brain and bloodstream, causing the uterus to contract, pushing the baby down the birth canal. These pulses also give the woman's body time to rest between contractions, while reducing her anxiety. The pauses also relieve pressure on the baby, allowing blood to flow through the brain.
In the hospital, Pitocin can make these contractions too strong and too close together. Too-strong contractions can compress the baby's head, causing brain damage.
Some natural birth experts believe that an overload of Pitocin can flood the oxytocin in the baby's brain, causing them to be less sensitive throughout life and contributing to autism spectrum disorder.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, doctors in the seven-state Trinity Health System are now using a standard protocol to limit the amount of Pitocin given. According to the article:
Pitocin should be used only to stimulate the uterus to behave as it would during a delivery
progressing normally, not to make contractions stronger and faster, [Dr. Augustus Parker, an obstetrician who works on improving quality at Mount Carmel East] said. Before this,
dosing was left to individual obstetricians.
In addition to striving to keep Pitocin-use at a safe level, the hospital system is working to
make sure doctors who are inducing labor have good reason to do so, he said.
I hope the tide is beginning to turn, and we're moving toward an era when we don't automatically think we know more than Mother Nature.