Archive for April, 2011

Cytotec (generic name Misoprostol) first hit the market as a prescription drug for the prevention of ulcers. It was supposed to counteract the unfortunate side effects of certain medications for arthritis and pain relief that cause a higher rate of ulcers (I think I’d rather have the arthritis, personally!). The FDA ran trials and approved it for this use only.

However, it was soon discovered that, given to a pregnant woman, a low dose of Cytotec will successfully start labor contractions at a fraction of the cost of pitocin. So, doctors began giving the drug “off-label” to millions of women.

So, what’s the big deal? you may ask. It works, doesn’t it? Well, I’ll tell you what the big deal is.

Cytotec kills women and babies.

That’s a pretty big deal, right?

I’ll say it again: using Cytotec for induction can kill or seriously injure both the mother and baby.

One unfortunate side effect of misoprostol is that it can cause uterine rupture, which is life-threatening because the uterus detaches from the mother’s body. It causes severe bleeding, fetal distress, and the baby or placenta can be delivered into the mother’s abdominal cavity, rather than through the birth canal. Mothers who experience uterine rupture need an immediate cesarean to get the baby out and to repair or remove the uterus. The mortality rate for women who have a uterine rupture is extremely high, and their babies either die or are left seriously disabled.

The deaths of healthy mothers and babies should be enough to keep doctors from giving the pill to anyone. However, it gets worse. The most shocking part of the use of Cytotec in this way is that the manufacturing company, Pfizer, clearly labels each bottle with a warning against using the drug on pregnant women. When doctors ignored it, they sent out an extra warning to all healthcare practitioners involved in prenatal care and childbirth:

The purpose of this letter is to remind you that Cytotec administration by any route is contraindicated in women who are pregnant because it can cause abortion…

Serious adverse events reported following off-label use of Cytotec in pregnant women include maternal or fetal death; uterine hyperstimulation, rupture or perforation requiring uterine surgical repair, hysterectomy, or salpingo-oophorectomy; amniotic fluid embolism; severe vaginal bleeding, retained placenta, shock, fetal bradycardia and pelvic pain.

(This excerpt was taken from the actual letter. If I knew how I would scan the whole letter and add it to the post, but I’m not quite that technologically adept yet).

With all the reasons not to give Cytotec to any pregnant woman, you would think that no doctor would ever do so. And yet, even with the warnings and evidence of danger, women are still given this drug to induce labor and the fatalities continue.

The biggest question is, of course, why?! If it causes so much damage, why on earth would doctors continue to prescribe it? There are only two reasons I can think of that Cytotec would be given for induction rather than pitocin: money and convenience. Cytotec is much cheaper than pitocin to induce labor, and it is also extremely easy to use: just pop a pill early in the morning, and the baby is out by evening. Or dead by evening.

To all mothers-to-be, please, please do not allow anyone to give you Cytotec! Remember, it is also called misoprostol. If you choose to be medically induced for any reason, make sure you are given pitocin via IV rather than a pill that is either taken orally or placed in the vaginal opening. It is not worth the risk to you or your baby.

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You see it on TV, in movies, through the birth stories of other women: childbirth is awful! It is painful; so excruciating, in fact, that even the most mild-mannered woman will scream obscenities at her husband: I hate you! You did this to me!  Women scream and groan and ask for drugs as portrayed in the media. Probably the worst when I was pregnant with my first was all the horror stories older mothers felt compelled to relay. Their experiences were so painful and the baby wouldn’t come out and so they had to have an emergency c-section… I can imagine that anyone who has ever been pregnant knows what I’m talking about. You know, those stories that absolutely terrify you and make you wish you had never gotten pregnant!

Throughout the United States, childbirth is viewed as a horrible, painful ordeal that requires medical assistance. Although in 1900 over 95% of women gave birth at home, usually with a midwife in attendance, by 1960, roughly the same percentage of women were giving birth in hospitals with drugs. Why? Women were seen as incapable in both the act of childbirth and of assisting in childbirth as midwives. Also, obstetricians had sought to establish themselves as the only experts in the field for the majority of the early 20th century. So, in a very short time, childbirth moved out of the hands of women (both mothers and midwives) and into the hands of men. Doctors, instead of assisting and supporting a woman through the process of childbirth, turned it into a medical ordeal. They essentially used the “knock ‘em out, drag ‘em out” approach. Women were drugged, laid on a table with sheets covering everything except the vaginal opening, and their babies were extracted while they stayed in their drugged state. Unfortunately, that idea has continued in the American consciousness, although many midwives and doctors have fought for the right of women to take back childbirth as their own.

For much of history, women have given birth with the help of other women, usually older women who had already given birth to their own children. Unlike the current status of birth as a medical condition that always requires a doctor and hospital, birth was viewed as a natural process. And, in other countries around the world, it is viewed in the same light: normal. Childbirth is not something to fear. It is not an abnormal part of life. It is part of who we are as women. Biologically, we are perfectly capable of giving birth to a child without medical intervention.

Now, I’m not saying that no women ever need doctors during their pregnancies and births. In fact, some women really, truly do need medical intervention in order to safely have their babies. That is what doctors are for: to help those who actually need their knowledge. However, quite honestly, most women don’t. In fact, medical intervention tends to create more problems than it solves in a healthy mother.

A woman’s body is truly phenomenal. Life begins within our bodies, and is sustained while each new human being develops. When the baby is ready, our bodies begin to change and every little step falls into place – in perfect order – for a new life to be born. One midwife, while explaining the process to me, said that it is a miracle that the thousand things that must happen in order for a baby to be born do happen, in the exact order they need to, during the relatively short span of labor. Not to mention the previous months of preparation. And it truly is a miracle; a process that should inspire awe in all who witness birth.

So, pregnant women, do not be afraid! Your body was designed to give birth to babies. Your body adjusts and alters itself to accommodate the life growing inside, and your body inherently knows the perfect way to bring that new life into the world. There is so much to learn about childbirth, and how incredibly capable we truly are. And there is much you can do to prepare so that you are no longer assaulted by fear of the unknown or swayed by the fear of others.

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This is my first venture into the world of blogging, so I imagine I’ll stumble around a bit before getting into the groove. It probably doesn’t help that I haven’t written much of anything since graduating college four years ago. I know, that doesn’t seem like a very long time, but when your life in the intervening time is filled primarily with infants and toddlers, your brain tends to go a little mushy. At least, mine has. I’m sure being pregnant again doesn’t help, either!

Anyway, I am working on posts, so I promise this will be up and running soon!

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