Pitocin, Epidurals & Anemia
Inducing labor with Pitocin
Moms today are encouraged to induce. COVID-19 and other contributing factors make induction- being given medication to jumpstart labor- convenient for doctors and safe for moms and babies with possible complications. An intravenous drug called Pitocin is the most common used drug to induce labor. But Pitocin is also highly associated with breastfeeding problems.
Pitocin causes your production of urine to decrease as it is an anti-diuretic. This is known to cause you to retain fluid. Have you ever had a baby and left the hospital bigger and swollen than when you came? This level of fluid retention can create severe engorgement as well as delayed milk production in the hours to days following childbirth. If you are induced, you are most likely to next need an epidural.
Many inductions are administered for medical necessity. Where inductions may be a culprit of low milk production it typically has no long-term negative effect on mom nor baby.
Nursing after an epidural
According to the NIH journal on Labor Anesthesia, If you deliver in a hospital, you have a 50 percent chance of receiving an epidural anesthesia. Epidurals are administered through catheters placed in the epidural cavity near your spinal cord. Medications injected typically consist of a numbing anesthetic and a painkiller, such as fentanyl to relieve pain from your abdomen and legs by blocking the nerves that communicate to those areas.
When receiving an epidural some of the anesthesia enters your blood stream, where it passes across the placenta to the baby. The baby’s immature liver is unable to break the anesthesia down quickly. The effects of the medication can then show up in the baby as having difficulty coordinating sucking behaviors. The effects generally wear off in 24 to 48 hours. But some studies also show that epidurals interfere with the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for your let-down (milk ejection) reflex. Interference with let-down plus a baby that wont latch to help stimulate milk production can create a lasting effect on the body’s ability to create milk at a necessary level to sustain your baby.
Blood loss during labor
Iron deficiency often occurs before Anemia and is considered to be one of the most common form of Nutritional Anemia in postpartum.
What is Postpartum Anemia? Postpartum anemia is chronic iron deficiency post-delivery, when hemoglobin levels are less than 110 g/L at one (1) week postpartum and less than 120 g/L at eight (8) weeks postpartum. Anemia after delivery is associated with insufficient milk syndrome, which decreases the duration of breastfeeding and leads to weaning at an earlier age. Early Weaning can also lead to poor weight gain in infants; also known as "failure to thrive." Around 42% of first-time mothers suffer from postpartum anemia, with hemoglobin levels of less than 10 g/L.
The postpartum period serves as a time to restore iron lost during pregnancy and delivery. Iron stores tend to remain low for several months after childbirth without proper supplementation, and especially if there is significant blood loss during the delivery. Consumption of iron in significant quantities is majorly linked to overcoming low milk supply.
Signs and symptoms indicating postpartum iron deficiency:
- Feeling overly exhausted and tired (after restorative sleep)
- Reduced quality and quantity of breast milk, which can be associated with low weight gain (failure to thrive) in babies
- Pale skin and/or darkened undereye
- Feeling depressed
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Rapid Heartbeat
- Headache and/or Ear ache
- Darkened Nailbed or Lips
- Decreased Immunity
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