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Study: Pitocin Doesn't Lower Risk of Cesarean Section

A British study of the medication pitocin, which is designed to speed up labor and help women avoid Cesarean sections, revealed that though the drug does shorten labor, it does not prevent Cesareans at all. The New York Times reports:

Researchers at Nottingham University Hospitals in England pooled data from eight randomized studies involving 1,338 low-risk women in the first stage of labor. Compared with no treatment, the use of Pitocin shortened labor by about two hours, but it did not reduce the number of Caesarean sections or increase the number of unassisted deliveries.

Giving Pitocin early or late in labor made no difference. It appeared to cause no harm to babies or mothers, but the sample was too small know if it has any effect on the death rates of newborns.

"We need better ways of managing slow progress in labor," said Dr. George J. Bugg, the lead author and an obstetrician at Nottingham University Hospitals. "It's a real problem, and the method we've relied on for so many years doesn't actually work."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a Cesarean section rate of 32 percent in 2009.

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