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Brian Iriye, MD
OB-GYN

Why (And How) Pitocin Is Used In Labor

When things need a little jump start, your doctor might turn to Pitocin. Learn more about the drug and how it works.

Pitocin is a combination of a nonapeptide protein—which means it’s made of nine amino acids. The simple explanation is that it’s basically the same hormone your own brain creates to cause contractions—it's also created when you breastfeed and helps with postpartum healing.

Pitocin can be used if you’re already in labor and your contractions aren’t strong or frequent enough to progress your labor. You’ll be given Pitocin through an IV, and the medicine level can be adjusted so you get more or less as needed, depending on how things are going.

Pitocin can also be given to a pregnant woman whose labor is getting induced. It’s important, though, to make sure your cervix is favorable (meaning dilated and/or effaced enough) before you get Pitocin. If a doctor induces labor when mom-to-be has an unfavorable cervix, there’s an increased chance she’ll need a c-section.

Plus, more from The Bump:

What to Expect in an Induction

How do labor induction meds work, and what are the risks?

What is a Bishop score?