Pitocin is a synthetic version of Oxytocin, a hormone naturally created in the body. Oxytocin is released naturally during kissing, intercourse, and birth. It reduces the stress hormone known as Cortisol and assists the mother in bonding with her baby. Oxytocin also helps stimulate lactation. Using pitocin reduces the body’s production of Oxytocin. This can create difficulties with the bonding and breastfeeding process after birth.
Pitocin, on the other hand is a super scary thing. The insert in the Pitocin package is very clear about the risks of using this drug during labor and delivery.
Risks include (per Pitocin package insert):
-fetal heart abnormalities (slow hear beat, PVSs and arrhythmias)
-low APGAR scores
-neonatal retinal hemorrhage
-permanent central nervous system or brain damage
-fetal asphyxia and neonatal hypoxia
-blood supply to uterus is greatly reduced
-contractions are closer together and stronger-reducing the rate at which baby receives oxygen (which can have life long effects on baby’s brain)
Risks for birthing women:
-Postpartum hemorrhage (due to prolonged exposure to non-pulsed Oxytocin)
-reduce natural hormones that assist in lactation and bonding with baby
-hormonal disruption can lead to reduced rates of breastfeeding
-increased risk of epidural
-higher intensity contractions
-higher rate of complications in labor and delivery
-higher rate of placental rupture and separation
I had a birth plan. I wanted a natural birth. My birth plan CLEARLY stated that I “did not want an epidural or pitocin, or any intervention that was not FIRST cleared through me or my husband and 100% absolutely necessary.” My doctor signed it and placed it in my file. I also had extra copies of it on my night stand (at the hospital), on the door to my room, and in my bag (just in case I needed to hand them out).
Labor went great! I labored at home as long as I thought was safely possible (next time, I‘ll just stay home for the birth too). When we got to the hospital, I was 4 cm dilated. I progressed to 6 cm pretty rapidly, then labor seemed to stall. My doctor was not yet there. The nurse on duty tried to convince me we needed to augment labor because I was “stuck at 6 cm”—translation: “You are taking too long for my liking and we need to speed things up.” I refused and made them call my doctor immediately. I knew he would stand up for me. After speaking with him, they seemed to back off a bit. He was on his way, and I felt safe again. My OB was also my mama’s doctor for 25+ years. He delivered my youngest brother and had been my doctor for a few years also. He was a blessing during labor and delivery. He believed in me, and that went a long way.
The hospital “demanded” I have an IV, according to their protocol. If I knew then what I know now, I would have threatened to walk my happy, healthy, pregnant butt right out of there. Instead, being a first time mom, I gave way. That was mistake #1.
After birth, my son latched on and we both fell into a cat nap breastfeeding for the first time. I was awakened to the sound of a beeping machine. It was an IV that had apparently been connected to me without my consent. I called a nurse in and she responded with, “Oh, that’s just your pitocin drip.” My jaw hit the floor! WHAT!! How could they?? And without my consent?? What happened to MY body, MY choice? What happened to my right to refuse unnecessary medical interventions?
I immediately started asking questions: Why did you do this to me? Did you read my birth plan? Where’s my doctor? Did he sign off for this?
I was told, “Your doctor is gone. We are in charge of your care now. Pitocin helps the uterus shrink back to size and prevents complications after birth.”
That answer was TOTALLY unacceptable to me, but I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it at this point. It was already done. You can’t unring a bell right??
After I returned home from the hospital, my son was jaundice. I took him outside daily, trying to get him as much sun as possible to reduce this. He was exclusively breastfed and I was with him constantly. This, however, was only the tip of the ice burg of our problems that would stem from this pitocin incident.
It wasn’t long before I developed a rash on my face. It started on my nose. My nose became bumpy, similar to teen acne (which I’ve never had acne issues before). Then my ears started to burn and turned red. Soon, the rash on my nose began to spread. It had a butterfly effect on my face. The more I researched, the more terrified I became. I called my OB on day three when my eyes began to swell shut. I cried. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t recognize myself. I was embarrassed to have company over. My OB took one look at me and said, “I’ve never seen anything like this before. I want you to go see Dr. Susong; he is one of the best dermatologists in the area and perhaps he can decipher what this is.” Thankfully, Dr. Susong had been friends with my doctor for over 20 years. My doctor placed a phone call, and had me in Susong’s office that afternoon. I was in so much pain.
As I sat in the waiting room of the dermatologists office, I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder what people think has happened to me. I must look terrifying to them.” I hid in a corner and refused to look at anyone. Not to mention that I missed my baby, who wasn’t yet old enough to leave home and was with my husband while I was at the doctor.
I waited for a few hours before getting called back. Apparently this doctor was booked up for 6 months and had made a special effort to squeeze me in. Because of how busy the day was, I became the very last appointment of the day. Once they finally called me back, I knew something was awfully wrong by the look on their face when they saw me initially. They took me to a room and started asking a bunch of questions. They said it was probably either sun poisoning or Lupus. Well, since I had just given birth, we hadn’t been in the sun much, maybe 5-10 min at a time, but I was hiking 10 miles a week during my pregnancy so that was nothing. I was so scared that I instantly started crying. They prepared me for a biopsy and cut some skin off behind my ear to send to the lab. They also collected several viles of blood. I was given a list of medicines that I am “never to take again” that can trigger Lupus. I was told to “never go outside without ample protection in the form of SPF or clothing.” I was told that my hiking and outdoor activities, which make up a large portion of my life, might have to take the back seat. . . permanently.
I was broken. I was petrified. I just had my first child and wanted nothing more than to witness him learn to ride his bike. I wanted to be the first to take him on a hike. I wanted to teach him to rock climb and to enjoy the things that his father and I love doing together so much. What if this could never happen? What if mine and my husband’s favorite dates could never happen again? This could be life changing for me.
They gave me a prescription for steroids and told me I couldn’t breastfeed on them. I didn’t want to risk anything with my sweet baby, so I instantly began to look for donor milk. Thankfully, with my cousin’s help, I was put in contact with a local woman, whom I had never met, who had a freezer full of milk she was willing to donate! I had tears streaming down my swollen, red, rash-covered face as she handed me a cooler full of breast milk. Breastfeeding was something I had prepared for, researched, spoken to a bunch of people about, and was looking forward to more than anything. . . now this happened. I was heartbroken to say the least. I had this empty void that nothing could fill. I felt like I was failing my son, depriving him of this bonding experience of suckling on my breasts and looking in my eyes as he did so. I felt like a failure.
While everything was in the air, and the lab tests were being run on my blood work and I was waiting on my biopsy results, I kept pumping. I remained hopeful that one day I would be able to breastfeed my son again. I am so thankful I kept my hopes up and kept pumping.
It took over two weeks to get the rash to calm down and the swelling to reduce. My whole face hurt. I was depressed and heartbroken. I had never imagined anything like this happening after giving birth. I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy with no complications, a great labor that consisted of dancing and laughing with my husband, bouncing on my yoga ball and chatting with one of my best friends on the phone. I had a pretty long, but easy delivery with no issues or complications. There was no reason for me to be having all these issues now. . . or was there??
This is when I began to think back. I’ve always been very sensitive to chemicals. When I was a baby, I broke out in a full body rash from laundry detergent and fabric softener. I’ve been super careful my entire life to only take medicine as a last resort and not use it as a simple answer to everything. As I replayed my hospital stay, I remembered something very crucial that had happened: I was given Pitocin, against my knowledge, and against my will. That was it! I had figured it out! This whole shebang was caused by the unnecessary IV of Pitocin. It took a few weeks for the pitocin to completely exit my system, for me to detox of all the chemicals, and then I was back to normal. I immediately called my doctor and ran this idea by him and he said it was totally feasible. If it had been sun-related or Lupus, I would still be having issues and I’m not.
Since this incident, I have spent a lot of time outdoors without any reaction to the sun. I continued to breastfeed my son, after finishing the steriods. He is now 13 months and going strong, showing no signs of self-weaning anytime soon.
I write this for the woman who is considering induction. I write this for the woman whose doctor says “You aren’t progressing and we need to augment your labor.” I write this for those who have trouble breastfeeding. Life sometimes throws us an unexpected curve ball. You are so much stronger than you could ever imagine. Your body is amazing. Trust it, and save modern day medicine for medical necessary situations.
My Next Move:
It has taken me over a year to realize how incredibly wrong I was treated. The wonderful MotherWise community has empowered me! Thank you for being part of it. I am taking this blog, my photo documentation of this situation, and a formal complaint to my local hospital (Erlanger Women‘s East in Chattanooga, TN). I am scheduling a meeting with the liaison coordinator and discussing what they plan on doing to prevent this from happening to future birthing women. I will be doing a follow up blog to let everyone know how it goes. Until then, know that this CAN and DOES happen. Arm yourself with knowledge and a very vocal advocate. I thought I had armed myself pretty well. I had a thoroughly written down birth plan and my very vocal husband with me. However, this happened while we were all sleeping, without our knowledge. Know that you CAN SAY NO. They do not have the right to treat women like this. Birthing women have rights. It’s sad that we have to fight for them like this.