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Brian Iriye, MD

What Is Pitocin Exactly?

What is Pitocin, and how is it used in labor?

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 (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?