Friday, March 25, 2011

Confessions of a Habitual Homebirther - My Hospital Experience with Pitocin

**This post was originally written 1/4/08 when I was expecting baby #6. It reflects the original content with a few editorial changes :)

Three out of my five children have been born at home. I'm currently planning my fourth home birth. My journey to home birth actually begins with my second child. My first born, I had at a birth center. That experience itself was a peaceful one. I was able to labor and deliver in the same room. I had no drugs and no IV hooked up. I was allowed to move around if I choose. And they gave me all the snacks and juice I wanted. It was a perfect setting and experience for a first timer. Having no prior experience with hospitals and childbirth, I falsely assumed all hospitals and birth centers were created equal.

When it came time to give birth to my second daughter, I was living in a different state, with a different insurance company and vastly different hospital. When my water "broke" (in hindsight, my water didn't break, but was leaking) we dutifully went to the hospital around 2 am. My contractions were not very strong (in hindsight, they were actually "strong" Braxton-Hicks/practice contractions). They were not producing a progressive labor. By 7 am. The doctor informs me that If I'm not in active labor soon, they would have to induce me. Which terrified me immensly! I've heard horror stories about the type of pain being induced brings and I was determined to have a drug free labor.

Long story short, I ended up being with induced with Pitocin at around 8. Then began the most horrendous experience of my life. The pain was not only the most horrible pain I've experienced (keep in mind I had a drug free birth previously), but it was unrelenting for the next 6 hours. By the near the end of the ordeal, I was begging for drugs, but the nurse informed me that it was too late. I believe it was time for my daughter to be born some thirty minutes later and then began, what I've described to some, an episode out of "ER"! To this day, we're unsure what the whole urgency was about, but suddenly, my doctor was yelling and screaming at me to push. "You've GOT to push, Hannah!" she threatened. I said yelled back, "I AM". As far as I knew, my daughter's heart rate was normal and nothing was amiss. She then proceeded to stick her hand in and attempted to "pull" her out. I screamed like I've NEVER screamed before, and tore like I've NEVER (since having three more) tore before.

Finally my daughter was born, while I was joyful at her arrival, I was reeling from the whole thing and so sad at the same time. I felt as if something was stolen from me. I clearly remember my Doctor's demeanor afterwards. She congratulated me and said something nice, but I got the sense that she realized she overreacted and was sheepishly trying to appease my husband and myself. I didn't even look at her. I had so much disdain for her actions that I knew my attitude would not be pretty.

Immediately, postpartum I had to deal with cold nurses and hospital policies regarding feeding babies. My daughter didn't wake up after she had nursed immediately after birth for another four hours. I had to fend off a nurse who tried in vain to wake her, by taking off her clothes, bending her back and forth and even tossing her a bit, because of hospital policy! Then had the nerve to tell me that "I'll bet she'll eat if she had formula. At night she woke up and nursed for a good hour and a half. After I informed the nurse on duty, I was criticized for "letting her nurse too long"! I checked out of the hospital, eagerly, the next morning, even though I had another night's stay with my insurance. Some of the nurses were even upset with me about "leaving too soon"!!

What I've Learned

Making the decision to home birth largely came from my hospital experience with Roxannah. I realized as, horrendous as it was for us (My husband, myself and my baby), it could have been much worse. I did some research on Pitocin, unfortunately, after the fact and found potential life-endangering side effects. Some of them I experienced. The intense, abnormal incessant pain, being one. Pitocin, which is a synthetic form of Oxytocin (a natural produced hormone by the laboring body) is used to induce and or speed up labor. Because of the unnatural way Pitocin operates, there are higher reported incidents of fetal asphyxia, physical injury to a baby that was induced. Other side effects includes, but is not limited to: decreased uterine flow, premature separation of the placenta and rupture of the uterus.

Problems with Pitocin

Are there problems associated with the use of Pitocin?

Yes. Oxytocin, your body's natural hormone, is secreted in bursts. However, when you are given pitocin you are placed on a regulated intravenous pump, to regulate the amount of pitocin to a steady flow. Therefore, pitocin induced contractions are different from your body's natural contractions, in strength and effect.With pitocin, the induced force of the contraction may decrease uterine blood flow (This is also done during a natural contraction, but not for as long of a period and not as close together.). Therefore, reducing the oxygen to the baby. With pitocin you will also receive continuous electronic fetal monitoring. This is because fetal distress is more common with pitocin use and needs to be detected if it occurs.

We have also witness that pitocin can be the beginning domino in the domino effect. The IV, the infusion pump, and the continuous monitoring will confine most mothers to bed, decreasing her ability to deal with the contractions naturally. With the more painful contractions a mother is more likely to need pain medication, such as an epidural anesthesia.

Pitocin can present other hazards. For the mother these include: tumultuous labor and tetanic contractions, which may cause premature separation of the placenta, rupture of the uterus, laceration of the cervix or postbirth hemorrhage. Fetal hazards include: fetal asphyxia and neonatal hypoxia from too frequent and prolonged uterine contractions, physical injury and prematurity if the due date is not accurate. " Pitocin can present other hazards. For the mother these include: tumultuous labor and tetanic contractions, which may cause premature separation of the placenta, rupture of the uterus, laceration of the cervix or postbirth hemorrhage.  -- Pitocin FAQ

Pitocin is reportedly used on a regular basis. It can used per the mother's request, or because the doctor will not wait for natural labor to progress. Pitocin is also, associated with increase need for Cesarean deliveries. I realize afterwards that I was blessed that my baby and body showed no ill effects of an induced labor.

More information on Pitocin:

Taking Responsibility

I realized then, I need to know what's happening with my body. I need to understand how it works in labor. After three home births since, I can confidently say I was not in (active) labor then, and should have never been induced in the first place. I believe every woman labors differently and uniquely. The unfortunate thing about Obstetrics, is the fact that it doesn't recognize or accept the uniqueness of a laboring woman. Doctors have been taught to look at ONE specific process of how labor should "work", and any process that seems go against it is considered abnormal, and therefore needs intervention to correct it. I understand now that I have a tendency to experience leaking nearing childbirth, and it progresses to full active labor within a day or two. In our fast-paced, high-tech society, patience is not our strong suit. So, I've made the decision to be accountable for understanding my own body, I can hardly expect a doctor, or midwife whom I see once in a blue moon, to understand the "inner workings" of "Hannah's laboring body", when I live with "Hannah's" body everyday, and besides my laboring body refuses to comply with policies, and yet, produces healthy babies in a safe, nondramatic environment....Go figure...

Author's Note:

In this post, and blog I'm focusing on normal pregnancies and deliveries. I do realize that a doctor's care is vital in high risk pregnancies, but I also question a doctor's determination of a "high-risk" pregnancy. Every woman is responsible for her own body. My encouragement to the gestating woman is to research and question all the procedures your doctor offers to you, after all a doctor, we need to keep in mind, is a "for-profit" entity, who has due motive to protect themselves from potential lawsuits. The only person who has a true concern for the unborn child is you, the parent. God Bless.


  1. Thank you for visiting my blog on the hop. I’m here to follow you back!  Have a great day!
    Mom Always Finds Out

  2. Hello, thanks for sharing all your knowledge and experience in birthing with us all. This is a very helpful blog. I'm here from the Weekend blog hop and your newest follower. I hope you'll come visit and follow my blog too. I'd like being one of your blogging friends. Thanks and have a great weekend!

  3. I'm an RN and even though I have never worked in Labour & Delivery I'm so sorry you had such a terrible hospital experience. This should have been a beautiful family experience.
    I'm participating in the “Week-End Blog Hop” and I’m now the newest GFC follower of your great site. Hope you have a chance to check out my blog, have a look around and maybe follow me back!!

  4. Hannah,
    I am so glad I came across this post. My first was born with an epi-free pit induction due to pre-e. As I approach the home delivery of my second, I have to admit I have been getting increasingly nervous because labor was SO UNBELIEVABLY painful the 1st time. Knowing that your natural labor was much different/better than the labor using pitocin sets my mind at ease.

    Thanks for sharing!


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