Pitocin side effects?
Are there any?
After all, this drug is used on a daily basis to induce (or augment) labor and unsuspecting women are told it is perfectly safe!
While you are in labor, the use of pitocin has many risks to you as well as to your baby. To learn more about the side effects of pitocin while in labor click here. However, once labor is over and the drug is out of your system, it’s over, right?
A new study suggests that the after-effects of pitocin on your baby could be long term.
A study published in September of 2007 in “BMC Neuroscience” and conducted at the University of Memphis shows that using artificial oxytocin (also known as pitocin) can create changes in your baby’s central nervous system – CNS – that will only show up as your baby grows.
The study named “The Organizational Effects of Oxytocin on the Central Expression of Estrogen Receptor Alpha and Oxytocin in Adulthood” looked at the effects of high doses of oxytocin on estrogen receptors of voles.** This study was a double-blind placebo study. The voles were either given pitocin on the day they were born or a placebo.
**Note: Voles are small rodents resembling mice. They are sometimes called meadow mice or field mice in North America.
The researchers found that the effects of oxytocin depended on the dose given and also that the side effects were different for male and female voles. It seemed that oxytocin did affect the voles’ social behavior later in life.
Pitocin Side Effects
Some will say that this study is bogus for two reasons:
1) The researchers did not look at the voles’ estrogen receptors. Rather they made inferences by looking at the reactions of the vole after they were given oxytocin – which is known to bind to these receptors.
2) The study was done on voles – rodents. Soooo, there is no proof that this study could translate to humans. Maybe humans are immune to pitocin.
One of the researchers – Bruce Cushing – has been studying the use of steroids on the central nervous system. His research does show that oxytocin can change behavior in the offsprings. His studies are not the only ones pointing to the long term side effects of pitocin.
Cushing theorizes that the social interactions that occur between parent and offspring after birth influences greatly the future social behavior of the voles. This post-natal social interaction is directly influenced by the use of pitocin. After all, oxytocin is also called the “love hormone” and is known to play a key role in bonding and attachment between human mothers and their babies. We can safely assume that oxytocin serves the same role in other mammals, no?
Estrogen is also of primary importance. As a matter of fact, the more sensitive the estrogen receptors in the male – vole’s – brain, the less social the animal is. The reverse is also true. Male offspring were especially affected by the use of oxytocin at birth. To put it simply, they were less social.
We wonder if messing with a mother’s own pitocin output – by giving her artificial pitocin – can therefore affect the bonding experience and in turn the social behavior of the baby?
Now one thing that the study did not conclude is that pitocin can have long term side effects….basically the researchers had no idea what pitocin truly does to the newborn’s brain. They said pitocin could have a long term effect. They did not say conclusively that it does.
Yet, we KNOW that all drugs have side effects, the lack of side effects places them in the category of natural remedies which obviously pitocin is not!
So this study made no inference as to what pitocin could do to a human infants’ brain. However, we know that anytime we mess with one hormone many other systems are affected. The human body is designed to function a specific way and when we interfere – whatever the reason – it does have consequences.
Does this mean pitocin should never be used?
The proper use of technology and/or medication can be life saving but it should be warranted and the benefits should outweigh the risks.
It has been said that women who choose a natural birth – or dare we say a homebirth – are after the experience and are against medicine.
It is not true!
These women are for the proper use of medicine which they know is less likely to happen in the hospital at the hands of doctors – and even some midwives. The women that choose to have a natural birth are not super women. They are however educated and they are unwilling to say amen to interventions without a true and beneficial purpose.
So is pitocin evil?
But its use is not often warranted and it does have consequences which some studies indicate could be long term.
Sources for Pitocin Side Effects: