Oxytocin is given to stimulate uterine contractions in various situations, such as to induce labor or empty the womb for an elective abortion. This prescription drug comes as a liquid that is injected using an intravenous (IV) infusion or an injection into a muscle. Although most women tolerate the medication fairly well, side effects are possible and can include vomiting, excessive bleeding, and an irregular heart rhythm.
What Is Oxytocin?Oxytocin (Pitocin®) is a prescription medication used to cause or improve contractions of the uterus in various situations. It is a synthetic version of the oxytocin hormone found naturally in the body that plays a major role in childbirth. This medication is approved for the following uses:
- Induce labor in women for whom this is medically necessary
- Improve contractions when the uterus is not contracting sufficiently during labor
- Help empty the womb (the uterus) when a woman has a missed miscarriage (when the baby has died in the womb) or for an elective abortion
- Cause uterine contractions in the third stage of labor (the period after the baby is born until the placenta is delivered)
- Control bleeding after labor and delivery.
Oxytocin was originally available as a nasal spray (Syntocinon®). However, the manufacturer removed this medication from the market in 1995.
(Click What Is Oxytocin Used For? for more information on this topic, including possible off-label uses.)