A reader sent me a link to this piece 5 Ways Pitocin is Different than Oxytocin by Robin Elise Weiss. As she pointed out, it is “a bunch of crap.”
I want to lay down the gauntlet to Weiss: Prove it or remove it!
Weiss’ piece an excellent example of the alternate world of internal legitimacy created by natural childbirth and homebirth advocates to support their pseudoscience claim, a world that:
that mimics all the features of the mainstream research world — the journals, the conferences, the publications, the letters after the names — and some leaders have gained access to policy-making positions.
Simply put, the world of NCB and homebirth advocacy is an echo chamber. That allows to advocates to legitimize each other by citing other advocates in a never ending circle of misinformation.
Robin Elise Weiss, BA, ICCE-CPE, ICPFE, CLC, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE is one of the leaders within the echo chamber of NCB. You can tell right away that she is a quack because of all the letters after her name. That’s how quacks try to confer legitimacy on themselves. These made up designations meant to impress the faithful and to fool outsiders. What does it mean? Weiss is a “childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, doula trainer, and lactation counselor.”
How does that qualify her to write about pitocin? It doesn’t. But in the world of NCB and homebirth advocacy, having no idea what you are talking about is the perfect qualification.
Weiss makes 5 claims, only one of which is true (but not particularly relevant), and the rest are false or, at best, the data are conflicting. She provides no proof for her claims, but does offer the classic bibliography salad of papers that sound relevant but don’t address the claims at all.
As we examine Weiss’ claims, keep in mind that pitocin, a tiny molecule made up of only 9 amino acides, is chemically IDENTICAL to and INDISTINGUISHABLE from oxytocin.
1. Pitocin is released differently.
Oxytocin is released into your body in a pulsing action. It comes intermittently to allow your body a break. Pitocin is given in an IV in a continuous manner. This can cause contractions to be longer and stronger than your baby or placenta can handle, depriving your baby of oxygen.
Yes, oxytocin is released in a pulsatile fashion. That’s basically the only true statement in her 5 claims and their elaboration.
What Weiss neglects to mention (or does not even know) is that most hormones are secreted in a pulsatile fashion.
Secretion of anterior and posterior pituitary hormones, adrenal glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids and catecholamines, gonadal sex steroids, parathormone, insulin and glucagon is pulsatile (burst-like or episodic).
The pulsatile nature of oxytocin secretion sounds important, but appropriate treatment of a hormonal deficiency does NOT require pulsatile administration. For example, type I diabetics are treated with daily insulin injections to reduce their blood sugar levels. Without insulin, they die. With insulin they live long and healthy lives. I don’t notice anyone suggesting that it is better to withhold insulin than to give it in a less than perfect simulation of pancreatic function.
Similarly, some babies will die if they are not born in the very near future. They can always be delivered by C-section, but pitocin by IV infusion offers an excellent opportunity for vaginal delivery. Is Weiss suggesting that it is better to withhold pitocin and let those babies die or subject their mothers to unnecessary surgery rather than give it in a less than perfect simulation of pituitary function? If not, then what is she suggesting?
2. Pitocin prevents your body from offering endorphins.
When you are in labor naturally, your body responds to the contractions and oxytocin with the release of endorphins, a morphine like substance that helps prevent and counteract pain. When you receive Pitocin, your body does not know to release the endorphins, despite the fact that you are in pain.
False. Weiss just made that up or gullibly copied it from someone else who made that up. She offers no mechanism or explanation of how pitocin cause your body to “not know to release the endorphins” (whatever that means). And of course she offers no scientific citations for the claim because there aren’t any.
3. Pitocin isn’t as effective at dilating the cervix.
When the baby releases oxytocin it works really well on the uterine muscle, causing the cervix to dilate. Pitocin works much more slowly and with less effect, meaning it takes more Pitocin to work.
Really? Where’s the scientific evidence for that? Weiss offers none.
4.Pitocin lacks a peak at birth.
In natural labor, the body provides a spike in oxytocin at the birth, stimulating the fetal ejection reflex, allowing for a faster and easier birth. Pitocin is regulated by a pump and not able to offer this boost at the end.
Really? The evidence is mixed. Of course, Weiss provides no scientific evidence at all. But even if it were true, it’s easy enough to remedy; just provide a bolus (extra dose) of pitocin during delivery itself.
5. Pitocin can interfere with bonding.
When the body releases oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, it promotes bonding with the baby after birth. Pitocin interferes with the internal release of oxytocin, which can disturb the bonding process.
Weiss once again fails to cite any scientific evidence. That’s not surprising however since, to my knowledge, there is not a single human study on this issue.
As my reader pointed out, Weiss has offered “a bunch of crap” on the subject of pitocin. She has no idea how it works; even the little we know about it is far more complex than Weiss implies, involving changing numbers of oxytocin receptors that mediate the effect of the hormone itself and the multiple other hormones that interact with it during pregnancy, labor and postpartum. But that doesn’t stop her from trying to convince women that it is “bad.”
So Robin Elise Weiss, BA, ICCE-CPE, ICPFE, CLC, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE:
Please prove it or remove it.