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    Find out what other moms-to-be are asking. Join in the discussion with Henci Goer, whose expertise is determining what the research tells us best promotes safe, healthy birth. If you would like to contact Henci outside of the Ask Henci forum, send an email to Goersitemail@aol.com.

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    Archived User
    What kind of effects does Pitocin have on the mother's brain? Studies show that the baby's brain can possibly have adverse effects but why not the mother?

    Isn't it true that Oxytocin does effect the brain? What if they administer it to mothers and it increases those levels but after it plummets?

    Any kind of info regarding these types of questions is appreciated! By: Cheri
    Archived User
    It's weird sometimes how right after you learn something new, you find a use for it. I have just returned from Australia where I heard a talk by Dr. Sarah Buckley on the topic of hormones during labor. I knew a little about this before, but this is an area of special interest to her. Here is what she says about oxytocin:

    Oxytocin is released from the pituitary gland, which lies deep in the brain, during sexual activity, orgasm, during labor and birth and the delivery of the placenta, during breastfeeding, through touch, and when sharing a meal. In addition to causing rhythmic uterine contractions, high oxytocin levels make us feel loving, positive, calm, and connected. For this reason, it is called "the hormone of love." The baby also produces it. Levels peak in the baby at the time of birth and are elevated for at least 4 days following it. Oxytocin levels are enhanced in both mother and baby by skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact and by the baby nuzzling the breast and suckling. Oxytocin is also present in breastmilk. Oxytocin may also act as a pheremone or have its effects transmitted through smell. Animal studies show that oxytocin administered to one animal has effects on its untreated cage mates. This may explain the positive feelings that may be engendered in birth helpers who are with a woman birthing with peak levels.

    But here's the catch: oxytocin produced naturally by the pituitary circulates within the brain in the cerebrospinal fluid, but oxytocin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. This means that women get none of these positive effects when synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin or "Pit"; Syntocinon or "Synto") is given intravenously. This, of course, explains why women don't like labors that are induced or augmented with oxytocin. They may get stronger contractions but none of the beneficial mental effects that help them tolerate them or feel good about themselves, the labor, or the baby.

    -- Henci By: Henci Goer
    Archived User
    Hello again. Thank you for your response. I have been doing some heavy research on the effects of Pitocin and possible effects on the brain of the mother (or child). Here is some info. I found:


    Messing with the balance
    http://www.apa.org/monitor/oct02/postpartum.html

    Researchers are just beginning to think about how modern medicine might influence hormones' effects on behavior and mood--including possible side effects. Among those researchers is Binghamton University psychologist Diane Witt, PhD, who started this fall as program director for behavioral neuroscience at the National Science Foundation. She's concerned about how alopathic medicine may be messing with women's natural hormonal balance through cultural norms and medical interventions. For example, as many as 73 percent of American women who give birth get pitocin--a synthetic form of oxytocin--to induce or speed along labor. Doctors even give the drug to women who have a Caesarean section to promote contraction of the uterus.

    "This is a hormone that we know from animal research is implicated in all kinds of behaviors including learning and memory, sex, social behavior and feeding behavior," says Witt. "We may be changing the mother's or baby's brain when we give oxytocin."

    Doctors have long contended that the drug, given intravenously, does not pass across the blood-brain barrier into the mother's brain. But no one knows for sure, says Witt. And until we do, we should be more cautious.

    Indeed, Swedish researcher Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg, PhD, finds that exposing animals to extra oxytocin during early life permanently reduces their stress reactivity and lowers their baseline blood pressure. And the University of Illinois's Carter finds that male prairie voles exposed to extra oxytocin on the first day of life tend to form pair bonds more quickly in adulthood. In contrast, males exposed to a single shot with an agent that blocks the effect of oxytocin--something used to prevent premature labor in women--were less parental than normal as adults and, in fact, were aggressive toward pups.

    Some of these could be good changes, says Witt, but, she adds, "more is not always better. For a chemical to work, it needs receptors and we know you can downregulate receptors by overloading them. So, if, for example, oxytocin is important for the initiation of maternal behavior, and we blast away that system at the time of labor, we could really be affecting subsequent expression of maternal behavior."

    So far, this is all theory. But there's enough suggestive data now that people are starting to take notice. And, say researchers, hopefully that means more funding will follow.


    Regarding the blood-brain barrier:
    http://www.geroupr.com/stressonthebrain.html

    Stress Weakens the Blood-Brain Barrier-Study

    Stress can dramatically increase the ability of chemicals to pass through the blood-brain barrier , the complex system of blood vessels that protects the brain from toxins circulating in the bloodstream. During the Gulf War, to protect themselves from chemical and biological weapons, Israeli soldiers took a drug called pyridostigmine. Nearly one-quarter of them complained of headaches, nausea, and dizziness – symptoms which occur only if the drug reaches the brain. Pyridostigmine molecules generally can't get into the brain, so why had the side-effects increased during combat? An Israeli biochemist and physician wondered whether the stress of war might somehow have increased the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. The two researchers took a group of mice and stressed some by dunking them in water. They then injected the rodents with a dye and measured its intensity in the autopsied brains. They found that the dye had passed much more readily into the brains of the stressed animals. The fact that stress can dramatically increase the ability of chemicals to pass through the blood-brain barrier has enormous implications, since many drugs are developed under the assumption that they will not enter the brain.

    Stress Compromises the Blood-Brain Barrier
    Stress can dramatically increase the ability of chemicals to pass through the blood-brain barrier. During the Gulf War, Israeli soldiers took a drug to protect themselves from chemical and biological weapons. Normally, it should not have crossed the BBB, but scientists learned that the stress of war had somehow increased the permeability of the BBB. Nearly one-quarter of the soldiers complained of headaches, nausea, and dizziness – symptoms which occur only if the drug reaches the brain.

    © 2004 - The Franklin Institute Online - All rights reserved.


    This is only the tip of the iceberg! I have dozens of other medical files and research that shows basically that the medical community does NOT know if it crosses the blood-brain barrier (and that stressful/painful induced labors can break down this barrier). This is very unnerving to me since so many women are induced by this drug (even in cases where it isn't needed)

    If you are interested in more I am compiling my research and will send you my final when it is ready. By: Anonymous
    Archived User
    My email is [login to unmask email] By: Cheri
    Archived User
    As Mr. Spock would say, "Fascinating." You might also want to send your compilation of it to Dr. Buckley. I'm sure she has a contact link on her website.

    -- Henci By: Henci Goer
    Archived User
    A great article
    http://www.autismtoday.com/articles/ATTN_Researchers.htm
    Archived User

    Hello I am back....years later. The reason for my initial research on Pitocin and it's after effects on mother and child were due to my own severe postpartum depression after my 3rd child. After my 2nd trip to the hospital with contractions coming minutes apart the midwife asked my permission to break the bag of water so that I would be allowed to be admitted in spite of only being dialated 4-5 cms. After my water was broken, about 15 minutes later I was brought into the delivery room and given an IV and the anesthethiologist was called for an epidural.  However, after the IV was placed my contractions started coming rapidly and with great force. So much so that it was only minutes before my son's head was crowning and the midwife barely got into the room to deliver him.

    After the fast delivery the nurses were cleaning me up and disconnecting my IVs and the empty IV bag was laid on my bed which I read as "Pitocin". Not only was I aggravated at the fact that I knew I was already in labor when I came to the hospital and my subsequent pregnancies were without interventions, I headed into a deep postpartum depression/anxiety mainly with panic attacks and not feeling comfortable sitting in one position (or bonding) with my newborn. As I read more and more of the studies I was and still am pretty convinced that the synthetic hormone had some share to do with it. Especially when I read how the "fight/flight" response is connected.  It also concerned me how it this hormone affects the mother's thyroid gland.

     

    Finally, I sent most of my research to the hospital that I felt administered me Pitocin against my knowledge, want or need. They responded by telling me they administered Pitocin for the expulsion of the placenta and that it was "standard" to do so. Though, I am still skeptical about that claim (knowing my how my previous labors went), it still concerned me that administering Pitocin to the mother at any time (pre or post partum) should never be a standard. In my opinion these are synthetic hormones that have the potential to adversly affect the mother's post partum health and/or the health of her new child/family.  Until the research evidence is more conclusive about these hormones I don't think it should be a readily accepted "standard" and used for last resort situations.

     

    Henci Goer

    I'm sorry your 3rd child's birth triggered severe PPD and hope you have now made a complete recovery. I can tell you that it is common to administer Pitocin routinely as part of a policy known as "active management of 3rd stage" (the time from the birth of the baby to the delivery of the placenta). I agree that no woman should be administered any drug or undergo any procedure without giving her informed consent (or refusal).

    -- Henci


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