13 Aug · Karen Melton · 24 Comments


This article, found on the birth routes site, is about the damaging affects of pitocin, a drug routinely used by obstetricians in hospital birthing for inductions and augmentation of labor (speeding it up). Pitocin is specifically only approved by the FDA when medically indicated. I have added an important note at the end of the article about the emotional and psychological affects of this drug, which is rarely talked about. Here is the web site address:


May 30, 2010
Pitocin not approved by the FDA for elective (or non-medical inductions).
PITOCIN has been approved by the FDA for the medical induction and stimulation of labor. Pitocin has not approved for the elective induction or stimulation of labor.

What does this mean? That the common use of Pitocin in hospitals for inducing a mother post dates (without medical reason) is highly dangerous. The risks are too high for a non-medical induction. The use of pitocin in labor to ‘speed things up’ is not FDA approved. You can refuse pitocin augmentation unless it is for a medically indicated reason. It should not be used just because you are over your ‘due’ date or because its inconvenient to wait for baby to have his/her own timing, or for your labor to progress at its natural pace. This drug has consequences that medical professionals know nothing about.

“Oxytocin crosses the placenta and enters the blood and brain of the fetus within seconds or minutes. There appears to be a correlation between fetal exposure to oxytocin and autism in the exposed offspring.”
The manufacturer of oxytocin warns the provider in the package insert:
“Maternal deaths due to hypertensive episodes, subarachnoid hemorrhage, rupture of the uterus, fetal deaths and permanent CNS or brain damage of the infant due to various causes have been reported to be associated with the use of parenteral oxytocic drugs for induction of labor or for augmentation in the first and second stages of labor.”
Because oxytocin is used so commonly to stimulate labor we note here that, in addition to the more benign effects of uterine stimulants, such as nausea and vomiting, the manufacturer of Pitocin (oxytocin) points out in its package insert that oxytocin can cause:

(a) maternal hypertensive episodes (abnormally high blood pressure)
(b) subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in area surrounding spinal cord)
(c) anaphylactic reaction (exaggerated allergic reaction)
(d) postpartum hemorrhage (uterine hemorrhage following birth)
(e) cardiac arrhythmias (non-normal heart rate)
(f) fatal afibrinogenemia (loss of blood clotting fibrin)
(g) premature ventricular contraction (non-normal heart function)
(h) pelvic hematoma (blood clot in the pelvic region)
(i) uterine hypertonicity (excessive uterine muscle tone)
(j) uterine spasm (violent, distorted contraction of the uterus)
(k) tetanic contractions (spasmodic uterine contractions)
(l) uterine rupture
(m) increased blood loss
(n) convulsions (violent, involuntary muscle contraction(s).
(o) coma (unconsciousness that cannot be aroused)
(p) fatal oxytocin-induced water intoxication (undue retention of water marked by vomiting, depression of temperature convulsions, and coma and may end in death.

Fetal and Newborn Effects
The following adverse effects of maternally administered oxytocin have been reported in the fetus or infant:
(a) bradycardia (slow fetal heart rate)
(b) premature ventricular contractions and other arrhythmias (non-normal heart function)
(c) low 5 minute Apgar scores (non-physiologic neurologic evaluation)
(d) neonatal jaundice (excess bilirubin in the blood of the neonate.
(e) neonatal retinal hemorrhage (hemorrhage within the innermost covering of the eyeball)
(f) permanent central nervous system or brain damage
(g) fetal death

“Uterine stimulants which foreshorten the oxygen-replenishing intervals between contractions, by making the contractions too long, too strong, or too close together, increase the likelihood that fetal brain cells will die.
The situation is analogous to holding an infant under the surface of the water, allowing the infant to come to the surface to gasp for air, but not to breathe. All of these effects increase the possibility of neurologic insult to the fetus. No one really knows how often these adverse effects occur, because there is no law or regulation in any country that requires the doctor to report an adverse drug reaction to the FDA.
These findings underscore the importance of the midwife managing the woman’s labor in a way that will avoid the need for Pitocin and the pain relieving drugs that are often administered to help the woman cope with the contractions intensified by Pitocin.

DELAYED LONG TERM EFFECTS: There have been no adequate and well-controlled studies to determine the delayed, long-term effects of Pitocin on pregnant women, or on the neurologic, as well as general, development of children exposed to Pitocin in utero or during lactation.”

Here is manufacturers insert including warnings and uses of Pitocin.

Were you aware that the drug so commonly used on pregnant women without medical indication is not FDA approved?

The link to the FDA page: http://www.aimsusa.org/obstetricdrugs.htm
And the manufacturers insert is here…

Note from Karen on non-medically indicated use of Pitocin: This article doesn’t talk about the emotional and psychological affects of pitocin on babies. Within medical birthing we have lost contact with the importance of the natural rhythms of birth and how vitally they are connected to the natural daily rhythms of life. Being born without medical interference gives us a very important imprints for life. When we successfully navigate our own birth we feel “I can do it!” Navigating through our birth, both drug and intervention free, provides us with important imprints; birth is a very important transition that sets us up for life.

During natural labor a contraction builds increasing in intensity, it peaks, and then comes down the other side. There is a natural space in between each contraction in which both mother and baby can rest and gather their strength for the next wave. This space is very important for rest and resourcing during labor. When pitocin is administered this natural cycle is lost, and contractions are unrelenting, one after the other, with no rest. This is what makes it both more painful for the birthing mother, and traumatic for baby. Because this kind of laboring is more painful, mom will often be offered more drugs to kill the pain of the effects of the first drug! It can also be exhausting and lead to the medical term “Failure to Progress”.

Kids born with pitocin often have an unrelenting way of being in the world. The drug imprints into their nervous system. Every drug has its own character and job to do, pitocin is about speeding up, don’t rest, and go, go, go. This can be exhausting for the child and his parents, and is an expression of the drug and birth imprint. It can feel like someone’s coming at you, with no space for anything else to happen. It has a rev in it too, a fast moving energy. Drugs leave imprints that are an expression of both the character of the drug, and the way it expresses it self and impacts the recipients. They impact our nervous systems, and affect our perceptions of what life is about. Could it be that there is a link between this drug and ADHD/ADD too?? We have to understand that we are affecting our baby’s nervous systems with birthing drugs, and we are telling them “this is what life is”. Trusting our mothers and baby’s to know how to birth, and get born, are truly valuable imprints to offer to birthing diads. Babies are having their own experience, and they are very active in their birth. Drugs are affecting them a lot, and often get in the way of their sense of achievement, momentum, and “I can do it!”

Pitocin also interferes with the natural healthy imprinting that occurs in birthing. It affects the way our children negotiate transitions, which is a very crucial part of daily life. We are negotiating transitions all the time, getting up, leaving the house, going to school, coming home, going to sleep, moving from one activity to another, so this is very important. As birth is a major transition, how we are birthed has a huge affect on the way we handle transitions. Your child may have a tough time navigating transitions if they had pitocin in their birth. If a mother is induced with pitocin she will often end up with many other often non-medically indicated interventions, often culminating in a c-section. Induction increases your chances of a c-section because the earlier in your labor that you are in the hospital, the more medical interventions you are likely to have, and the more likely you are to end up in the ‘failure to progress’ (or failure to wait as one of my clients wisely called it) medical category which often leads to c-section. These all add to the birth imprints and can cause trauma for mother and baby, and take birthing out of their hands.

Please consider refusing pitocin unless clearly medically indicated. Make sure that you know what medically indicated means if you are venturing into a medical environment for your birthing, because many drugs and interventions are routinely offered when not needed at all. Remember that any drug or intervention you say ‘yes’ to is going to have a big impact on your baby too, and on your experience of having an empowering birth. Be very cautious about drugs offered for birthing. When medical interventions are really needed, they are great! It is however important to understand that if you are going into hospital to have your baby, that you are going to constantly be offered interventions and drugs. Hospital birthing is not about supporting the natural timing and rhythm of birthing for the mother and baby. The doctor will usually be in charge, not you. Doctors are often speeding things up for their own convenience and scheduling.

It takes a lot of research and preparation to keep your birth natural and drug-free once you enter the hospital. This can be hard work to add to the work of childbirth, although it can be done, and its most important to have good support for this. Having a doula can really help if you wish to be in the hospital and have an intervention free birth. Do consider a birthing center if you have one near you, they are a great alternative if you don’t feel safe at home with a midwife and doula, but want to avoid a medical birth with drugs and medical interventions. Happy birthing!

© 2016 Karen Melton


Category: Articles, Childbirth


  • Jeanne Madrid says:

    Thank you for addressing the emotional and psychological affect on babies of the non-medical, routine use of pitocin. I agree our birth is who we are and stays with us.
    My mom told me my birth story over and over. I was born in 1946. What should have been a normal birth was mismanaged and I am very lucky to be alive due to mom.
    I don’t think things have changed much in hospital birth management. Why experiment with a good thing?

  • amy says:

    i just hate this drug. they gave it to me after i stopped having contractions while in the middle of a home birth w my oldest.ugh it was horrible. like someone was hitting me over and over. and the staff was like oo do u feel some now..YES..THEY NEVER STOP… PLEASE get this off the market for birthing hospitals and ob! my older daughter has anigxerty and has trouble w change.

  • D. says:

    What a great article, very sad though and eye opening for me. My first baby was a pitocin induced baby and I totally see the effects of it on her nervous system and behavior as well. She is high stress, high energy (too high, even for a toddler) easily thrown off by changes in routine or plans and very emotional. My homebirthed baby is the EXACT opposite. Easy giong, laid back, relaxed, happy, spirited, loving, tender, nurturing (even for a 2.5 year old) and all around an easy easy kid. You better beleive the baby I am due any day with is going to be home birthed as well!! I just wish I had known better with my first, I feel like I totally screwed her up by allowing the induction like I did, even though my “medwife” claimed it to be medically neccessary (she said she was too small and hence most likely malnourished in the womb…she was average size and perfect). :'(

  • BJ says:

    So how can we heal this? I see the problems listed, and I agree wholeheartedly. My 5 hospital birth-pitocin induced children are so very, very different from my 3 homebirthed babies. It is heartbreaking. So what do I do now? Is there help to be found?

  • karen Melton says:

    BJ: This is something that I work with in my practice in N. California. If you don’t live near enough to me to bring your child/ren here, let me know where you are – I may know someone in your area doing the same work. Otherwise, you are welcome to call me for a free half hour phone consult. If you think I can help you over the phone – I do a lot of phone work – I could help you to work with your children to heal this imprint.

    • Sharon C says:

      Karen- I started researching the impacts the long-term impacts of pitocin after someone asked me if my highly anxious son had been exposed to pitocin. He was not but my daughter was. I never thought about the possible impact and the birth imprints as I had did not have pain meds with either birth, but my daughters birth was moving slowly so the Dr. suggested pitocin. She has a high IQ but a lot of difficulties with short term memory and has always had a very difficult time with transitions. She has moved out of State for college and is having lots of panic attacks in this transition. Any suggestions to work through those unconscious birth imprints?

      • Karen Melton says:

        Sharon, thanks for your post. What location does your daughter live in? I am wondering if there is someone near her there who could help her with this. It helps to have the support of someone who knows about early development and birth trauma imprints.
        As you know that she finds transitions difficult, you could consider giving her extra support during those times, begin to put that support in place BEFORE the transition. You can talk to her about what happened to her back then in her birth, and empathize with how it may have been for her. You can tell her that these experiences can still be affecting us very much, but that they are a memory, an imprint and that ‘it’ is not happening now in present time. The thing about early imprints is that when we are activated into them, we feel just like we did back then. Physiologically, emotionally, etc it feels just the same. If she can learn to make this differentiation between ‘back then’ and now, that could help her to down-shift her nervous system more easily. Sometimes it helps people to think about this as if they have a little one inside of them who holds all the memories of that time, and that little one doesn’t realize that it is not happening any more. Coming into relationship with that little one is always a good idea, because when she is activated, she is in charge. Little ones are not meant to be in charge, but it takes some work to earn their trust and get our adult self in charge of them, it is a process. She could begin this process by understanding that when she is panicking in a transition, it is her little one remembering, and it is not happening now. There will be a physical location in her body where she will feel the activation most, and she can connect with that place, put her hand there, and say hello to her little one, reassure her she is safe and it is not happening now. It can take a while for little ones to learn to trust us, since it is usually an adult who has caused the trouble in the first place. Once we can connect with the little one, we can listen to her and find out more about what she is panicking about, and how it felt for her.
        I am available for telephone/skype consults if that helps, and I also offer Intensives for people who don’t live near me. Some options could be that you could consult with me in order to help your daughter, or she could do some telephone/skype work with me. I am also open to continuing this conversation with you, and wish your family gentle healing.

  • karen Melton says:

    D, it is not uncommon for doctors to tell you that your baby is too small or too big in order to get your agreement too carry out some unnecessary procedure. They are not above scare tactics. I am surprised to hear that a midwife told you that too! I would love to talk to you about the differences between your home birth child and your pitocin hospital birthed child, I think it would be a good article for me to write. Let me know if you are interested and I will call you to talk to you about it. I can make my own notes that way. best wishes, Karen

  • karen Melton says:

    Amy, sorry your daughter is struggling, you could get some help for her if you can find someone in your area who works with regulating the nervous system as part of their work with kids. I am available for consults if you would like some input, and can’t find anyone there. best wishes, Karen

  • Alisa West says:

    As a certified Doula for over 20 years, and a strong advocate for unmedicated homebirth, The obstetric profession frustrates me on a daily basis, as well as the mother’s who leave all the decision making to the doctor’s and staff when they choose a hospital birth. It seems some don’t want to be educated about the risks of drugs during birth/unneeded interventions.They fail to think that before hospitals got involved(only the last hundred years) women had babies at home for centuries with midwives and women surrounding them for support,and it was empowering! Thank you for your article, we need all the information out there we can get to get the word out about what is going on behind the closed doors of labor and delivery rooms.

    • Karen Melton says:

      I appreciate your views and thanks. Yes, we live in a culture that has successfully disempowered us in relation to our own bodies and health. Many people just want a magic pill and don’t want to take responsibility for themselves, because they have not been taught how to! I don’t think women should be birthing in hospitals, nor should they be routinely offered drugs in childbirth, and elective c-section should definitely be OFF the list of options.

  • lani demoure says:

    My last child was pitocin induced in 1988 . I knew nothing about the dangers. He is now 23 and I can’t tell you how many prioblems he’s had because of it. adhd, mildly mentally retarded, behavior problems, can’t read right, write right or spell right. I don’t know if I have any legal recourse now but would like to know. He is still in need of a caretaker, and is on ssi.Had i known that this drug was so dangerous I would have refused it.

    • Karen Melton says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about all the problems you and your son have had to deal with, possibly linked to Pitocin. Obstetricians are supposed to be practiced informed consent but as you have discovered, they are not. Most of the drugs and medical interventions routinely used in hospital birthing cause trauma in one way or another, and the scariest part of all this is that the medical profession are totally blind to the damage they are causing. It is a tragic example of how dangerous it is to treat people within one strict modality that leaves out the holistic person, eg what is happening to our spirit, soul, emotions, and psychology when we are birthed or giving birth this way??

  • Leah says:

    Due to some medical issues I did use this drug during my 7 yr.old sons birth. I was not told of all the side effects that were possible. I may have chosen differently. The birth of my son was great. It was slow and quiet with many naps.(hard to believe I know) The next few years were HORRIBLE! I looked for years for reasons why my son had so many issues. I think I know why now. He had CNS problems from the start we just didn’t know why. Years of feeding clinics, in home nutritionists,PT,OT, and speech were our life. I wish I would have known.

    • Karen Melton says:

      Dear Leah, I’m so sorry to hear that your son had to go through so much. If he still has CNS/regulation issues you may try to find someone who does my kind of work, or take him to a very good cranial sacral practitioner. warm wishes, Karen

  • Megan says:

    So what do I do at this point? My delivery was 18 hours of hell. The pitocin was administered incorrectly and without my consent, I requested they stop it, they increased it, I reacted to it, they left me on it. I could share more about the wrong ways it was used. I chalked the experience up as just one of those things happen and have tried to move on. I am seeing so many issues in my little boy now. I am so clueless in how to deal with them and I am certain I have made things worse in some cases. He is so overly sensitive to anything, gets emotionally flooded at the drop of a hat, has little to no impulse control, is always on the go, he freaks out when he gets hurt and hides form me like I’m going to beat him instead of comfort him and it’s killing me. I’ve been looking left and right for help and answers and I still feel so unequipped to deal with it. The thought of his delivery still makes me tense up all over and get very emotional, angry, scared, overwhelmed and frankly, I found this page by searching for pitocin and post traumatic stress disorder. Any other resources for help than you can suggest? Please. Help.

    • Karen Melton says:

      Hi Megan, thanks for sharing your story. What are the resources in your area for you to get some support for yourself, and for your son? The kinds of things that might help would be Somatic Experiencing for you (Peter Levine’s work), if there is no one nearby who is trained in my work – Prenatal & Perinatal Psych. You both need someone you could feel safe to share your birth stories with, until it is processed enough and integrated. Some cranial work with a very experienced practitioner may also help your sons nervous system to settle and unwind. It’s important to get support with this kind of traumatic birth, so don’t give up – you are on the right track. Check castellinotraining.com Graduates list to see if anyone in your area is doing this work. If not, you can do some work with me by phone or skype, or by intensive (coming here to N California for an immersion). I’d be happy to discuss all of this on a free initial consult call.
      warmest wishes to you both

  • Josephine A says:

    I have been searching for an article such as this for quite some time now. I am a 33 year old woman with a birth story that is not at all dissimilar to what is described by many of the women leaving responses. My mom explained to me how she was given a double dose (not good!) of pitocin, despite her protestations. She heard whispers of the nurses perhaps getting in trouble as it likely one of them screwed up and gave her the extra dose. She describes my birth as traumatic and always said “I came like lightning”, with the cord wrapped around my neck. Fortunately for me, my Mother took a more wholistic approach to life, child rearing, and healing, while I was still young. Somehow, despite being a young parent she was able to resist the advice of others to medicate me, restrain me, and otherwise authoritatively control my wild mood swings, intense energy, emotional outbursts etc, that I had growing up. I say fortunately, because despite not being able to handle transitions well at all (and I never understood why until now!) she modeled and taught me so many skills to cope with the effects of my childhood. I am now a very successful mental health practitioner, have an active meditation practice, and have excelled at nearly everything I do. With a major exception!! I cannot seem to create a healthy romantic relationship. I have been searching the web to see if there could be any possible chemical link to my unhealthy choices in men. (Constantly ending up with men that are emotionally unavailable, untrustworthy etc and I impulsively dive in anyway… Even when I know it is wrong!) I have examined all the patterns, and even when I know all of the reasons I shouldn’t engage in a relationship… It’s like I am brain damaged! Understanding now the effects of oxytocin/pitocin as a “love drug”, I am encouraged to become a bit more kind to myself as yet another disastrous relationships ends. Perhaps another long term side effect of pitocin could be the antithesis of autism; premature and repetitive emotional bonding and attachment to inappropriate and unhealthy partners? (Side note… I have not discounted other environmental and psychological factors in the dilemma expressed above. It’s just that, when one has spent countless years doing inner child work, spiritual healing, abstinence, mindfulness, psychotherapy, psychosomatic healing, etc… And yet the patterns continue- one has to look for other potential explanations!) Thank you for this article!

  • Liz says:

    Hello, thank you for addressing this important issue. WIth my first child, I didn’t know better and pictocin was used in low doses over about a day (in hopes that it would spur natural labor). My son is five now and very shy. He does fine in pre-school, but is just noticeably more shy than other children. I am wondering if there is a connection and if there’s anything I can do to help him. Thank you.

    • Karen Melton says:

      Hi Liz, I encourage you to trust your intuition about your son if you feel that his shyness is somehow connected to the use of Pitocin during his birth. I’d feel curious about what his shyness is about for him – could it just be his nature, is he feeling sensitive about something that happened – dropping into yourself as a parent as you feel into his shyness can yield some helpful wisdom that may help you to support him.

  • Lindsey says:

    Thank you for the information on this. I had twins 10 years ago (in uk) and as I went into labour at 29 weeks I hadn’t even began to think about drugs during labour. My labour was moving very slowly with weak contractions (so they said) so suggested pitocin to help me along a bit. I went from 0-60 in about 5 minutes flat. I had no idea what the hell was happening, I was just in overwhelming pain with no break or relief. I turned into a screaming banshee and begged them to cut me open. I don’t recall being offered any pain relief at all. In the end I was put to sleep and the twins were delivered by c section. Since that awful time I have been ill. I was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia and ME and I’ve gone from an active bubbly person to a bedridden bore. My twins seem to have come out of it ok, although my son is very sensitive, I would say borderline autistic. He hates change, noise, crowds etc and is quite a nervous boy. I don’t know if pitocin is to blame for any of the this but I know my body has never recovered and I look back on the birth in horror instead of it being a special memory

    • Karen Melton says:

      Lindsey, that is a perfect description of Pitocin – being revved with no rest or break. The Pitocin overrides our natural cycle and takes away the rhythm of going up, coming down, then having a rest period in between each contraction. We lose that precious resting moment, and our own rhythm and pacing. So sorry it ended with major surgery and was so painful. Unfortunately one intervention often leads to another. Have you thought about getting some help – you seem clear that your birthing experience has continued to have quite a profound affect on you and perhaps you can benefit from some support to resolve that trauma. A challenging birthing experience can be very debilitating and disempowering, and it is possible to move on from it with help. Perhaps have a think about that?

      • Nicole says:

        Hello Karen, thank you for this article as I’m on a mission to find out why 14 years later(but it did start when my daughter was 9 approaching 10years old). That burning feeling I had during labor and being on pitocin, without my prior knowledge or approval, came back. This excruciating burning feeling comes on during my cycle(period). I don’t have any unfortunate stories about my daughter and I guess pitocin didn’t have a negative effect on her, but oh boy years later I wonder could it still have an effect on me with that burning feeling in my abdomen area about an inch from my navel on the left side, almost like a straight line. Crazy, how it’s the same feeling I had during labor. Are you familiar with this?

        • Karen Melton says:

          Hi Nicole, I have not heard of your experience before but that doesn’t mean its not common. You seem clear that this sensation is related to the pitocin in your birthing so I would trust that, and get curious about why its been coming up now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get your FREE E-BOOK

Cutting edge insights into:

Early Consciousness, Embodiment, Health, Resilience and Thrive-ability, Early Parenting, and Attachment.

The 9 Principles
Conscious Early Parenting

Suitable For: Pre-Pregnant, Pregnant, and Conscious Parents, Birthing Professionals, Therapists, Healers, Pediatricians, Obstetricians, Fertility Practitioners, people working with babies, children and families, Consciousness Seekers

To receive your FREE E-BOOK and my MONTHLY NEWSLETTER with new articles informing you of new articles, videos, webinars, classes and talks.

Your information is private and will never be shared with anyone.