You are here

Study: Labor-Induction Drug May Pose Risk To Babies


A drug-free labor and delivery is an ideal scenario for many parents, but sometimes, labor needs a little help getting started. Many OB/GYNs opt for a drug called Pitocin, a syntheitic version of the naturally released hormone oxytocin, which causes uterine contractions and begins labor. But, according to a study presented at the annual clinical meeting of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on Tuesday, Pitocin may pose a risk for babies.

Researchers reviewed hospital records of over 3,000 women who had delivered full-term babies at New York's Beth Israel Hospital between 2009 and 2011. Pitocin was linked to unexpected admissions to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and to lower Apgar scores, which could signal lasting health problems.

Plus: Study: Pitocin Use Doesn't Help Avoid C-Sections

But Karen Deighan, MD, OB/GYN, director of OB/GYN at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola University Health System in Illinois, tells that the research is still inconclusive since the real cause of the babies admission to the NICU. “There are so many other factors that it’s very difficult to pinpoint one, whether it’s a drug or something else entirely,” she says.

Pitocin is a mainstay of modern obstetrics, and an important medication in making sure delivery goes smoothly. If, for one reason or another, a woman’s water breaks, but the uterus doesn’t contract on its own, induction is necessary to protect the baby from infection.

Dr. Deighan says that Pitocin is administered according to strict protocols, all centering around the health and safety of the baby. “We monitor the baby closely to make sure the dosage and administration of pitocin is correct. Like any medication, it can cause complications, but, also like any medication, when given under safe and careful supervision, it is a great help,” she says. “I don’t know that we could practice modern obstetrics without it.”

What's your take on this study's surprising findings? Did you induce with pitocin and, if so, how was that experience? Let us know.