The Role of Oxytocin in Labor Induction

Oxytocin is used in labor induction when the mother doesn't produce enough of this hormone naturally. Let's look at the effects and contraindications.
The Role of Oxytocin in Labor Induction

Last update: 13 June, 2021

Why is oxytocin used in labor induction? One of the biggest doubts of a pregnant woman is how her child will be born. Most women want to have a completely natural birth; that is, without the need to introduce any substance that could have any effect on the baby.

Many women are fortunate enough to be able to fulfill that desire and are able to have a completely natural birth. However, there are many who are unable to do so. Therefore, the medical team decides to resort to labor induction using oxytocin. This is to keep the process from being too long and preventing possible damage to the newborn.

In order to understand the reason why doctors use oxytocin in labor induction, there are a few things to know.

Labor induction: what is oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a hormone that the body produces naturally in the hypothalamus. This substance is necessary in order for the birthing process to take place.

Its major production begins when, at the end of gestation, there’s a widening or dilation of the cervix. This is aided by the contact of the baby’s head with the entrance of the birth canal.

At this time, the body sends a signal indicating the release of this hormone. This then activates the necessary contractions in the uterus so that the birth canal widens and the baby can pass through the vagina.

The role of oxytocin in labor induction.

When do doctors use synthetic oxytocin during labor?

Many women aren’t able to produce the necessary amount of oxytocin naturally. Therefore, the team of doctors decides to introduce synthetic oxytocin so that the baby can be delivered.

There are several commercial brands of synthetic oxytocin; they perform the same function as endogenous oxytocin, but with different effects depending on the woman’s body.

Doctors use synthetic oxytocin, in addition to inducing labor, to speed up the process if the contractions aren’t strong enough for the baby to come out. The use of oxytocin in labor induction is a very common practice among doctors to make the uterus contract more quickly after delivery, thus avoiding possible complications from internal bleeding.

Doctors can also use it to help the woman’s body expel the placenta. The placenta is usually removed from the uterine walls naturally during vaginal delivery. For this, slightly stronger contractions occur after the delivery, so the level of oxytocin must be higher.

In the case of women undergoing cesarean section, the physician should administer an adequate amount of oxytocin after the birth of the baby so that the placenta is completely removed from the reproductive tract.

How should oxytocin be used in labor induction?

Although its use is very common in medicine today, doctors must introduce this hormone in a controlled manner. It’s administered intravenously through a dropper. In the process, the physician must monitor the level of contractions until they’re adequate for the baby to be born.

While the level of oxytocin is decreasing, the specialist must monitor the patient’s blood pressure, as well as the heart rate of the baby on the way. This way, they can adjust the amount of oxytocin the patient requires.

“Oxytocin is a hormone that the body produces naturally; it’s necessary for the birthing process to take place.”

When should doctors not use oxytocin?

In cases where there’s any fetal distress or the fetus isn’t in the proper position for birth, labor shouldn’t be induced with oxytocin. Nor should doctors use oxytocin in cases of placenta previa or a disproportion between the fetal head and the pelvic canal.

Furthermore, its use should be further studied in the case of twin pregnancies or when the mother’s had a previous cesarean section. It should also be evaluated when the mother suffers from heart disease, hypertension, or renal insufficiency.

A woman experiencing labor pains.

Is induced labor more painful?

The contractions produced by the synthetic hormone are very similar to those that occur naturally. However, the pain may feel stronger, as it comes on suddenly and without mental preparation, a few seconds after the synthetic hormone is introduced.

Finally, the physician in charge of delivery is the one who should analyze and decide whether or not to use oxytocin in induced labor. The expectant mother shouldn’t worry in these cases. Its use is frequent and the results are positive.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.