Synthetic Oxytocin for Pregnant Women Connected to Postpartum Depression


A recent new study was found that related synthetic oxytocin (pitocin) given to women around or during the time of delivery have a higher chance of depression after giving birth. The study examined women who were exposed to pitocin during delivery from the years 2005-2014. Some strong evidence was found. According to this study, the use of synthetic oxytocin during labor increased the risk of postpartum depression by 32% in women with no history of of prepregnancy depressive or anxiety disorder, and 36% in women who did have a history of prepregnancy depressive or anxiety disorder. This seems to go against original popular belief.

Oxytocin, in it's natural state, is considered the 'love' hormone, as it helps with bonding between two people. It is created in the pituitary glad in the brain, and is stimulated when someone is experiencing a pleasurable experience, such as handholding, kissing, and the like. During pregnancy, oxytocin is the hormone that is released to stimulate contractions in the uterus. After birth, it helps during lactation to pump the breast milk down and eject it into the baby's mouth. All of this oxytocin during birth and lactation help to promote bonding between mother and baby. When seeing how this hormone can produce positive effects in its natural state, it is easy to conclude that the synthetic form would not have a negative effect.

When looking at this study, it could be easy to assume that pitocin can cause postpartum depression. While it might have some truth, it is not effective to assume that is the case. Correlation does not equal causation and other factors could be involved, including life situation, the amount of support that a women and her family receives, and others which could have been hard to measure in retrospect.

This also does not mean that synthetic oxytocin should be completely avoided. It can be very helpful is some situations, such as when labor is not advancing or needs to be induced. Nor does it mean that you are guaranteed to get postpartum depression if it was used on you. What it could mean though is that you could watch out for depressive symptoms after delivery, and if you feel that something is not right, don't be afraid to seek help. There is help for postpartum depression, and it is more effective when dealt with early.

There are ways that improve your chance of avoiding, or using less of pitocin for delivery. A doula with New Birth Services can work with you and inform you of those ways before labor. Studies have shown that using a doula for birth can greatly decrease the use of medications of inductions or augmentation, some up to 31% for the use of pitocin. A postpartum doula can help after delivery as well. Support during the postpartum period can help to alleviate or reduce the impact of depressive symptoms. To learn more, contact us about hiring a doula for you.

Dekker, R. (n.d.). The Evidence for Doulas. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/

Kroll-Desroisiers, A. R., Nephew, B. C., Babb, J. A., Guilarte-Walker, Y., Moore-Simas, T. A., & Deligiannidis, K. M. (2017). Association of peripartum synthetic oxytocin administration and depressive and anxiety disorders within the first postpartum year. PubMed, 34(2), 137-146. doi:10.1002/da.22599

What Does Oxytocin Do? (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/what-do-hormones-do/oxytocin

by the Endocrine Society

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© 2015 by Christine Torres. 

New Birth Services, L.L.C.

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