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The Oxytocin Quandary


I am delighted to host BloodtoBaby's first guest blog by Deborah Neiger (Independent Midwife at Yorkshire Storks).


Off the back of my recent blog 'Oxytocin administration & delayed cord clamping' Deborah discusses the differences between endogenous (natural oxytocin) and synthetic man-made oxytocin (Syntocinon) during labour and birth.

 

Super Powers!


Oxytocin is everpresent in midwifery. It thrives within pregnant, birthing and postnatal women, it courses through midwives caring for women, it seemingly permeates the air during physiological births and when mothers connect with their babies. We love it!


Photo courtesy of https://milkandmoon.uk/

We love it so much that it’s molecular structure shows up in the form of tattoos, jewellery, art and all sorts other accessories midwives and mothers covet.


It enables the body to labour, minimises stress, maximises joy and facilitates mothers falling in love with their offspring. It has almost become a symbol of birth physiology, and rightly so.


The Alter Ego!


But there is another side…..the use of synthetic oxytocin, also known as Syntocinon or Pitocin which has now become one of the most common interventions in obstetrics.


It is used to either to induce or augment labour, or to attempt to prevent or stop a postpartum haemorrhage. Please don’t get me wrong…..the judicial use of synthetic oxytocin can make sense during some births and be occasionally lifesaving.


However, the vast majority of women in this country will have synthetic oxytocin injected into their bodies, either intravenously or intramuscularly at some point during her labour and birth.


Well, is this a bad thing, seeing as oxytocin is so amazing? Maybe, yes.


While the use of synthetic oxytocin is often framed as ‘simply adding the exact same hormone that the body is already producing, so we are just helping you along’, it really is not quite so simple.


Synthetic vs endogenous oxytocin