synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin)

Drips of synthetic oxytocin

A drip of synthetic oxytocin (syntocinon or pitocin) is a substitute for the natural pituitary oxytocin a woman is supposed to release when giving birth. It can be used for labour induction, or to make uterine contractions more effective during a labour that started spontaneously. The need for synthetic oxytocin is a symptom of an inappropriate hormonal balance. It is therefore dependent on environmental factors. It is related to the degree of privacy and the feeling of safety. The need for synthetic oxytocin is usually associated with a need for epidural in the context of modern departments of obstetrics.

The long-term consequences of being born after a labour induced or augmented by synthetic oxytocin cannot be easily evaluated among humans, since randomized controlled studies are not feasible.

There are basic differences between the effects of an intravenous injection of oxytocin and the effects of the same hormone released by the pituitary gland. The first difference is that injected oxytocin does not cross the blood-brain barrier and does not reach the brain receptors: it has no behavioural effects. In other words it is not a hormone of love. The second difference is that the natural hormone must be released by pulsations in order to be effective. Intravenous injection is continuous; this is a way to explain why the doses of synthetic oxytocin must be comparatively high to be effective.

At a time when most women rely on intravenous oxytocin, because they cannot release their natural oxytocin (and other love hormones), new questions must be raised in terms of civilization.

Michel Odent