speaking4baby

“Pit to Distress”

In Birth, Childhood, Parenting on July 12, 2009 at 6:03 pm

7182_pitocinThere is currently a lively discussion going on about the order given to nurses to “Pit to distress”, apparently with the intention of causing fetal distress that can then result in an emergency cesarean.  Two days following the original post it went viral with well over 11,000 hits.  I do encourage you to read this discussion, since the trend is alarming and another very clear example of a health care system in crisis putting the safety and needs of mothers and babies last.  I feel no need to add to what has already been said by The Unnecesarean, Keyboard Revolutionary , and others, so I will only make a brief comment here about the perinatal psychological implications of this:

What astonishes me over and over again is that no-one ever, ever seems to consider (well, actually Sarah Buckley does) what it may mean to motherbaby to have a massive overdose of Pitocin binding with oxytocin receptors at a time when oxytocin is supposed to be surging ready for post-birth bonding, not to mention all the consequences of distressed babies, crash sections and traumatized mothers and babies. Michel Odent said somewhere: “When human beings release adrenaline, they cannot release oxytocin.” Why do we settle for so little? The “at least you have a healthy baby” offered as the consolation following a cesarean is questionable itself, unless “is breathing and has a pulse” is all you need to meet the criteria for “healthy”.

What does it mean to begin life with life-threatening trauma entirely as a result of someone who is too impatient to allow nature to take its course? Assuming that the cesarean ensuing from “Pit to Distress” is successful and there are no lasting physical problems for mother or baby (which, of course, we can’t assume in all cases!), what is it like to have adrenaline and cortisol flooding your system, likely an overnight stay in the nursery, a mother in recovery from major surgery, and delayed or failed breastfeeding, instead of basking in abundant endorphins and oxytocin, nursing and falling in love?

Animal studies have suggested that interfering with the oxytocin system at birth may have enduring consequences: for digestion (in which oxytocin is involved) and social functioning.  We also know that the oxytocin system is implicated in autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.  Now that is not to imply a causal relationship between the two–I’d be the last to suggest this, but I do wonder about social functioning when birth becomes disruptive to the hormones involved in the primary attachment relationship.  Rixa Freeze, in her own discussion of this issue, Pitocin Protocol and emergency cesareans, cited a recent study, Hospital’s Oxytocin Protocol Change Sharply Reduces Emergency C-Section Deliveries which noted that “As oxytocin utilization declined from 93.3% to 78.9%, emergency cesarean deliveries decreased from 10.9% to 5.7%”. I know I’m not the only person shocked that a hospital would consider 78.9% oxytocin use a good percentage!!  That means more than 3/4 of women birthing at that hospital are being given Pitocin! Does this mean that 3/4 of American women are incapable of giving birth without chemical help? Are their bodies “broken”?  Or is it the health care system?

What will it mean for all these babies/children/people to have started life rushed into the world with the wrong chemicals flooding their newborn bodies? What will it mean for their mothers: oxytocin receptors flooded with a synthetic  that, while a perfect chemical copy of oxytocin, cannot replicate its multiple functions at birth, in our bodies, and in our daily relationships.  And what will it mean for society?

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Here is a link to flow-chart of typical consequences of Pitocin use:

http://www.birthinternational.com/parents/obstetric/diagram.html

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  1. Thank you for this insightful article; we have a chance to interact with the neonatal nursing community at nurse meetings/tradeshows from year-to-year, and you may have seen our exhibitor booth before. Also, please check out our blog when you get a chance, and keep up the great work!

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