Pitocin and Pregnancy

Although Pitocin (oxytocin) is not expected to cause birth defects, this does not mean it is completely safe for use during pregnancy. Pitocin can cause several reactions in a newborn whose mother was given this drug. Some of these problems include an abnormal heart rhythm, jaundice, and brain damage. Your healthcare provider will discuss the potential risks before giving you this drug.

Can Pregnant Women Receive Pitocin?

Pitocin® (oxytocin) is a prescription medication used to stimulate or improve contractions of the uterus in women who are pregnant so labor and delivery can occur. It is also used after labor and delivery to stop bleeding or to help with delivery of the placenta.

What Is Pregnancy Category C?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses a category system to classify the possible risks to a fetus when a specific medicine is taken during pregnancy. Pitocin is classified as a pregnancy Category C medication.
Pregnancy Category C is given to medicines that have not been adequately studied in pregnant humans but do appear to cause harm to the fetus in animal studies. In addition, medicines that have not been studied in any pregnant women or animals are automatically given a pregnancy Category C rating.
Pitocin has not been studied in pregnant animals. Based on use of the medication in pregnant women, however, it is not expected to cause birth defects when used as directed. Normally, the medicine is used right before or immediately after childbirth. It should not be used in the first or second trimester of pregnancy, unless it is needed to help expel the contents of the uterus (the womb) after a miscarriage or for an abortion.
However, although Pitocin is approved for use in pregnant women, it is not completely safe for use during pregnancy. Even though the medicine is not expected to cause birth defects, it has been associated with side effects in the fetus or newborn when given to pregnant women. Some of these side effects have included:
  • A low heart rate
  • An abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
  • Brain damage
  • Seizures
  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Bleeding in the blood vessels of the retina (the tissue that lines the back of the eye).
Your healthcare provider will observe your child for these and other problems if you are given Pitocin.
Pregnancy and Pain

Pitocin Drug Information

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