Do You Know the Risks Associated with Synthetic Oxytocin? #birthmatters #consentmatters

Did you know that in the last 70-odd years, synthetic oxytocin has gone from being a medication that was administered to effectively stop post-partum haemorrhage (PPH) to being routinely given to all women in order to prevent PPH?

If you’re giving birth in an Australian hospital, and unless you expressly state otherwise, you will almost certainly be administered synthetic oxytocin for the third stage (delivery of the placenta) and often without active consent.

But do you know the risks associated with its use?*

Here are just some of them:

‼️A study of over 33,000 women found that active management (which includes administering synthetic oxytocin) of the third stage of labour significantly increases rates of postpartum haemorrhage (by a whopping 2.7 times).

‼️In addition, synthetic oxytocin has been linked with over 30% increased risk of developing post-partum depression.

‼️Information produced by the pharmaceutical companies themselves state that synthetic oxytocin shouldn’t be used in the case of previous abdominal surgery or by anyone who is grand multiparity (more than 5 births). In addition, one of the known and listed side affects is post-partum haemorrhage.

‼️This week, new research came out demonstrating that infants born to mothers who receive intrapartum oxytocin may have impaired sucking ability for at least the first 48 hours after birth.

If you are heading in to birth, it is important to understand both the benefits and risks associated with the use of synthetic oxytocin. Don’t buy the lie that the hospital “has to” administer it because that’s the policy. You don’t work for the hospital. You can refuse it. You can say no. You can also consent if you want to.

It’s your birth. Your baby. Your post-partum recovery.

There is much at stake.

There are a number of things we can do to help the process along if needed – breastfeeding, movement, gravity, gentle massage – and a skilled support person will definitely be able to help with this by providing timely suggestions. If a woman has successfully birthed her baby without intervention, it would be really unusual for her body to simply stop producing the required oxytocin and stop contracting all together.

My understanding of the literature is that the length of time doesn’t necessarily indicate an issue – but hospitals have attached arbitrary timelines and we tend to work from that, so if the placenta isn’t out it in, let’s say, an hour, the staff may suggest it simply won’t happen and it would be safest to begin active management.

Sometimes it can take just a few minutes for the placenta to come out; other times it might take hours. There’s much to suggest that we simply don’t wait long enough in most cases for a woman’s body to be ready to birth the placenta.

For clarity, I’m not referring to retained placenta where only part of the placenta has been birthed and some remains. That is a very different and often serious issue.

*Disclaimer: I’m not talking life-saving halting of a catastrophic haemorrhage here. I’m talking “active management” of the third stage of labour for a woman who has birthed her baby without intervention.

A further note: This information is specific to synthetic oxytocin only (for example Syntocinon or Pitocin). If you are being offered a combination drug called Syntometrine, THIS is what you need to read.

Links:
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22188999/
https://www.technologynetworks.com/biopharma/news/oxytocin-associated-with-postpartum-depression-281811
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-024-56635-9

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