We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Pitocin?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated Feb 18, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Pitocin® is a synthetically created form of the naturally occurring hormone oxytocin, which causes uterine contractions. When a pregnant mother is overdue, sometimes the obstetrician will induce labor with an intravenous drip of this drug. While it can speed things along, it must be used carefully in a hospital setting and it is not recommended for elective induction. Elective induction simply means induced labor when there is no medical reason for it.

Since this hormone is synthetic, it does not produce exactly the same kind of uterine contractions as its natural counterpart. Many women report longer, stronger contractions that are closer together and sometimes have "double peeks." This may actually mean that contractions are running together, rather peaking and falling like usual. This makes labor move far more quickly, and the baby may be born earlier than expected.

In some cases, the medical professional will turn down the dose of Pitocin® as labor progresses to avoid causing trauma to mother or baby. A break from the strong, continuous contractions also gives the mother a chance to rest a bit before delivery occurs. Occasionally, the drug may cause side effects such as increased pain, the need more or stronger pain medication, or may cause distress to the baby. As with any medication, the patient should disucss these as well as other side effects with her healthcare provider.

For many pregnant women, Pitocin® is considered a lifesaver. After a week of being overdue, many mothers beg to be induced. While some are able to wait patiently until the baby is ready to arrive, others become overwhelmed and seek relief. Any woman who is pregnant should discuss her birthing options, including Pitocin®, with her obstetrician and birth coach. Having done so, everyone will know what to expect if induction becomes necessary later on.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon312503 — On Jan 07, 2013

Despite me being outspoken about not wanting Pitocin, my doctor put it in my IV. I had a horrible reaction and it elevated my baby's heart rate and I ended up needing an emergency C-Section. When I had my second baby via C-section (tried for a VBAC to no avail), they put Pitocin in my IV to help my uterus contract back down to normal size. I had a horrible reaction again! I don't recommend it to anyone. For any reason.

By MissDaphne — On Jul 26, 2011

Pitocin induction is only one use for it. A lot of doctors use Pitocin to speed up labor--maybe mom had an epidural and it slowed down her labor, for instance. Once you start having interventions, you tend to need more and more.

But I would never give birth without Pitocin nearby, because it can be a literal lifesaver. Usually, no Pitocin is needed after delivery; the uterus will tighten up on its own and the afterbirth will follow quickly. Some doctors will give Pitocin routinely after the baby is delivered, so every pregnant woman should discuss with her doctor whether she wants this.

But... sometimes, even after a completely normal labor, the mother will experience a postpartum hemorrhage. Pitocin is then given to firm the uterus and stop the bleeding--before the mother bleeds to death. It can happen.

State laws vary on whether the certified professional midwives (who are not nurses) who attend most home births can carry and use Pitocin. I urge anyone planning a home birth to discuss this issue with her midwife. Sure, it probably won't happen, but it's life-threatening.

By ElizaBennett — On Jul 25, 2011

@anon70702 - I do see the contradiction, but the contradiction isn't just in the article--it's in the medical community. ACOG, the professional group of OB/GYNs, does not recommend elective induction with pitocin or any other method. But many doctors practice their own way and do't always follow ACOG's recommendations. Some doctors will induce without medical reason, maybe because mom is uncomfortable, doc is going on vacation, etc.

There are good medical reasons for induction. Going over 42 weeks is considered dangerous, and induction might be necessary sooner if, for instance, the baby has low levels of amniotic fluid or there are other signs of postmaturity. If you are less than 42 weeks and your doctor talks about induction, you might want to ask for a BPP, biophysical profile. That will check to see if baby is healthy in there (it's basically a nonstress test plus an ultrasound) and whether you can wait a little longer.

By anon70702 — On Mar 15, 2010

When you say "it is not recommended for elective induction", and then go on with saying that for some women Pitocin is a "lifesaver", insinuating that these women can't take being pregnant any longer and choose to be induced, or talked into induction. Isn't that a big contradiction?

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.