Surprise! Pitocin Is Linked to Postpartum Depression | Mother Rising

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Pitocin®, a synthetic form of oxytocin, is routinely given to women before, during and immediately following birth to induce and augment labor and to also prevent and treat postpartum hemorrhage.  Much to the surprise of the medical community, a recent study showed that Pitocin® is linked to postpartum depression and anxiety.

The mothers aren’t surprised.

For women with a history of depression or anxiety prior to pregnancy, receiving Pitocin® increased the risk of postpartum depression or anxiety by 36%.

For women with no prior history of depression or anxiety, receiving Pitocin® increased their risk of postpartum depression or anxiety by 32%.

Let that sink in for a moment.

I Bet the Numbers Are Even Higher

While I pondered these incredibly high numbers, it occurred to me that the numbers may actually be higher.

The information used in the research study came from women that received a diagnosis and/or a psychotropic medication.  What about those that didn’t seek help?

In my experience, for whatever reason, many women do not seek professional help when experiencing postpartum anxiety and/or depression.

How many anxious or depressed mothers never confide to their care providers about what they’re feeling?  Or even worse, were dismissed and told “everything will be fine”.

It’s Not Just in Our Heads

Even if the numbers may be higher, the research as is, is incredibly validating.  Ladies, what you are feeling is not “just in your head”.  It’s real, and it’s a big problem (that society has no idea how to handle).

*For a list of symptoms of postpartum mood disorders please visit Postpartum Progress.  (Postpartum Progress is a non-profit that aims to raise awareness, fight stigma and provide peer support and programming to women with maternal mental illness.)

Pitocin Is Not the Same as Oxytocin

The strangest thing about the research study was that the hypothesis was the opposite of what made sense to me as a mother and childbirth educator.  The hypothesis suggested that synthetic oxytocin, Pitocin, would in fact lower postpartum depression and anxiety.

The underlying assumption I am gathering is that, despite the evidence, medical professionals believe that Pitocin® is the same as oxytocin.

A few years ago I was attending a Pitocin® induction at my local hospital.  My doula client was struggling BIG TIME with the sudden wave after wave of strong, painful contractions.  Her nurse, not knowing what else to do, told her, “this is just labor, honey”.  As if what she was experiencing were normal labor sensations.  How sad.

Believe me, Pitocin® does not feel warm and fuzzy, and isn’t “just like labor”.  My pitocin augmentation birth was much harder than my first two births.  For me, Pitocin® made my active labor phase feel like the transition phase, and lasted far longer than the transition phases I had experienced in my non-Pitocin® births.

Oxytocin is Needed to Mother Well

Oxytocin, on the other hand, is helpful for coping with stress, supporting emotional and mental well-being and also helps with bonding – which are absolutely necessary for a successful transition to motherhood. (source)

Another study showed that women given Pitocin in labor had low oxytocin levels during breastfeeding.  This revealed that the exposure to Pitocin® has consequences that last on into mothering. (source)

What About the Baby?

If oxytocin is an important hormone for becoming a mother and synthetic oxytocin is linked to postpartum depression, anxiety and low oxytocin during breastfeeding.  I can’t help but wonder – what about the baby?

If oxytocin effects how women transform into mothers, how is this synthetic hormone affecting the baby?

How is the baby affected by synthetic oxytocin before, during and after labor?

Frighteningly, we have no idea.

Re-Examine Routine Procedures

If Pitocin® is linked to postpartum depression and causes a lack of oxytocin during the postpartum period, maybe it’s time to re-evlatulate the use of Pitocin® as it pertains to each woman.  (Never mind the baby…)

According to the CDC, induction has more than doubled from 1990 (10%) to 2010 (23%). (source)  However, just because a procedure is routine does not mean that it’s a good enough reason to do it.

 

We Need More Research

I’m not suggesting to eliminate Pitocin®, as it is an important life saving tool in modern obstetrics.  (Shoot, I’ve even experienced it first hand!)  However, because the consequences of routine childbirth interventions such as Pitocin® on human maternal behavior have been understudied, it would be wise to limit the use of Pitocin® until further research is completed.

And if Pitocin® is deemed necessary, it would be wise and compassionate to provide quality postpartum care, especially to those with high risk factors for postpartum depression.

What if care providers were required to pay for 40 hours of postpartum doula services to women that received Pitocin®?  I bet we’d quickly see the true motivations behind the choices made in the care of new mothers.

Oxytocin is essential for our species to thrive as mothers.  Our current methods meddle with the mental health of these new mothers – the backbone of society.

Is the crumbling mental health of new mothers important enough for us to take action?

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Doulas: Should you hire a labor coach?

What’s a doula?

A birth doula is a trained labor coach who assists you during labor and delivery. She provides you with continuous emotional support, as well as assistance with other non-medical aspects of your care.

Doulas charge several hundred to a thousand dollars for their services, which are seldom covered by health insurance. Some, however, are willing to work on a sliding scale based on your ability to pay. A few pioneering hospitals even provide doulas to laboring patients who want them.

You can also hire a postpartum doula to come to your home after the birth to help you settle in with your new baby.

What are the advantages of having a birth doula?

A doula helps you before labor and delivery by answering your questions about what to expect, easing your fears, helping you develop a birth plan, and generally getting you ready for the arrival of your baby.

During labor and delivery, a doula provides constant, knowledgeable support. She can make suggestions about positions during labor, help you with breathing through contractions, and provide massage. She can also answer questions you and your partner have about what’s happening.

It’s impossible to predict or control how birth and labor will go. Will you connect emotionally with your labor and delivery nurse, and will she have time for you? How will you react to the pain? Will you have a swift delivery or a long, drawn-out labor? How will your husband or partner hold up under the pressure?

Faced with these uncertainties, many women find enormous reassurance in having a doula by their side. Research has found that women who have continuous one-on-one support during labor tend to use pain medication less often, have slightly shorter labors, and are less likely to have a c-section or a forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery. In fact, if you’re serious about trying to give birth without pain medication, a doula may be your best ally.

Women who have continuous support are also more likely to report being satisfied with their birth experience. One theory is that mothers who have continuous support produce lower levels of stress hormones during labor than women left alone or attended by inexperienced coaches.

If you’re seeing a midwife in a low-volume hospital practice, or planning to give birth at a birth center or at home, you’re likely to have continuous one-on-one support from your midwife.

If you have your baby at a hospital, it’s likely to be a different story — and hiring a doula may be the only way to make sure an experienced coach will be with you throughout labor.

In a typical hospital setting, doctors and some midwives don’t stay in the room with you continuously during labor. Labor-and-delivery nurses often have to split their time between several patients, and they come and go according to their shifts.

What’s it like to have support from a doula during labor?

Everyone’s experience is different, of course, but here’s one woman’s story of a doula-assisted labor:

“Hiring a doula is like hiring somebody who’s there just for you. When I went into labor, our doula met us at the hospital. Eighteen babies were born in the hospital that day, so our labor and delivery nurse was quite happy to have someone else there to provide emotional support and help make me more comfortable.

“Having the doula gave me enormous confidence, plus it took the pressure off my husband. He was able to relax and enjoy the experience. The doula showed him some acupressure techniques he wanted to try.

“She locked eyes with me and helped me breathe through my contractions, making suggestions about moving around and trying different pain management techniques. She could read my body signals perfectly, and knew when I was in transition (when I got sick, a pan magically materialized). She helped me remember to drink fluids and communicate my needs to the nurses.

“When it was time to push, the doula put warm washcloths on my perineum and locked eyes with me again, which was absolutely critical.

“I couldn’t have done it without her. She made me fearless, and the lack of fear is what gets you through the pain without drugs. I had complete confidence in her. If I had been looking at my husband and saying, ‘Help me through this,’ it just wouldn’t have been the same.”

(Article from http://www.babycenter.com/0_doulas-should-you-hire-a-labor-coach_480.bc?page=1 )

How do I find a doula?

If you’re looking for a doula, try these resources:

Give the Gift of a Doula

Do you know an expectant mother who deserves the service of a Doula?

or

Are your friends or family planning a baby shower for you?

Consider having them all chip in for a gift certificate for doula services.

This thoughtful gift will help you and your partner have a more satisfying, memorable and joyful birth experience.

YtheDoula now offers Gift certificates for services including Prenatal & postnatal Doula, Sex education for females of all ages, Childbirth Education, massage therapy, and health coaching.

Breakdown of services offered: 

Birth Doula: The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Postnatal Doula: A postpartum doula provides evidenced based information on things such as infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, mother–baby bonding, infant soothing, and basic newborn care. A postpartum doula is there to help a new family in those first days and weeks after bringing home a new baby.

Sex education:  Instruction on issues relating to human sexuality, including emotional, spiritual relations and responsibilities, human sexual anatomy, sexual activity, sexual reproduction, reproductive health, reproductive rights, safe sex, birth control (family planning).

Childbirth Education: class is a great way to prepare for labor and birth. Depending on where you go, classes range from a one-day intensive workshop to weekly sessions lasting a month or more. The typical class consists of lectures, discussions, and exercises, all led by a trained childbirth instructor.

Massage therapy: Is manual manipulation of soft body tissues (muscle, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments) to enhance a person’s health and well-being. *Acupressure inclusive*

Health Coaching: *Emphasis on Vegan health* A wellness authority and supportive mentor who motivates individuals to cultivate positive health choices. Health Coaches educate and support clients to achieve their health goals through lifestyle and behavior adjustments.