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Syntocinon® is a brand name equivalent to Pitocin® or the generic oxytocin. This medication, which is made from a hormone that most mammals make, is often associated with its use in the obstetrical profession to induce labor. Generally, it is given in an intravenous (IV) drip form to strengthen contractions and bring about active labor. In a nasal spray form it may cause milk let-down and can be used by mothers who have given birth or those who have adopted but would like to breastfeed their children. Other uses for the medication have been suggested but most are not medically approved.
When Syntocinon® is given to strengthen contractions or induce labor, its effects on the individual can be varied. For some women, it may cause more painful contractions close together, that still can take a long time to progress labor. Induction is typically associated with a higher rate of medication use, such as in epidurals, to deal with labor pain. There are nevertheless good reasons for physicians to use oxytocin to speed up labor, particularly if it seems to be stalling, the water has broken, and the fetus is in danger of infection if not delivered within a certain time period. As stated, reaction to Syntocinon® is variable and the amount of the drug given may influence the degree to which labor becomes more uncomfortable or uterine contractions have risk of instability.
Oxytocin is usually not a good choice if the mother has had a previous c-section, cervical cancer, has a history of precipitous labor, has been pregnant more than six times, or has experienced a prolapsed uterus. If the pregnancy is unstable and conditions like prolapsed cord or fetal distress occur, the medication isn’t a good option either. Speeding up labor with Syntocinon® may not be fast enough to deliver a healthy baby and a c-section would generally be preferred to deal with strong fetal or maternal distress.
Another potential use for Syntocinon® is after a baby has been delivered. Doctors may give a small amount of oxytocin to help with delivering the placenta if it is not expelled quickly. As mentioned, oxytocin nasal spray has some use as a way of helping build milk production and stimulating milk let down. Additional off-label uses have been suggested including use for sexual dysfunction, since the hormone may help initiate orgasm. Oxytocin has also been examined for potential use among people with autism. Studies suggest it may more normalize social interactions of autistic children and adults, which may be due to its stimulation of the amygdala and its repression of stress-causing hormones like cortisol.