Slow labor is often treated with an oxytocin drip. Oxytocin is a pregnancy hormone that speeds up labor progression. Oxytocin is given as Pitocin.The treatment is accepted in many developed nations and a set of near universal standards have been established to prevent uterine rupture or fetal death from women being given too much oxytocin. There is no doubt that Pitocin or oxytocin increases strength and frequency of contractions, but it does not decrease the risk of having a C-section.
The health record review conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, included labor and birth records of 1,338 women. According to George Bugg, Queen’s Medical Center fetal medicine consultant in Nottingham England, “Really bad outcomes in labor only affect about one in 1,000 labors.” There were no negative outcomes during labor or delivery associated with oxytocin, but the rate of C-sections remained the same when oxytocin was used compared to when it was not used. Doctors note that a connection between increased risk of complications and oxytocin may exist, but it was not the subject of the review.
If oxytocin does not decrease the risk of C-sections, doctors are left with the question: should we use oxytocin to speed up labor? If oxytocin is used in the second or third phase of labor, it may reduce labor length; John Thorp, MD believes doctors need to learn more about the labor process before making changes to current labor protocol. "We need a better understanding of normal and abnormal labor: how to measure it, how to describe it and what are the biological phenomenon underlying it."
C-sections are associated with increased risk of hemorrhage, surgical complications, fetal death and maternal death. If oxytocin does not decrease the number of C-sections, doctors must evaluate whether or not labor is more likely to end in vaginal delivery or C-section before administering oxytocin.
Source: Cochrane Review. The Cochrane Collaboration. GJ Bugg, F Siddiqui and J Thornton. 6 July, 2011.