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“Pit to Distress” – A significant risk of hospital birth

There are two things women generally believe about OBs:

1. Their OB would never do anything to put them or their baby in harm’s way,

2. If their OB gives them a drug, or recommends a procedure, that’s only because the benefits outweigh the risks.

Unfortunately, both of those things are not always true.

Women often say that they could never homebirth because what if an emergency happened?  But what most women don’t realize is that in a hospital, a lot of “emergencies” are caused by obstetricians and/or hospital protocols. 

“Pit to Distress” is one example that I wrote about a few days ago and here is another blog by a labor & delivery nurse detailing her experiences, and attempts to mitigate, its use.  To review, “Pit to Distress” is when a woman is intentionally given large amounts of Pitocin with the goal of causing fetal distress requiring “immediate delivery” by cesarean section. 

“Pit to Distress” illustrates how what is in the best interest of the mom and baby are not the chief concerns of some obstetricians.  With “Pit to Distress” the chief concern is getting that baby born as fast as possible even if that means putting the baby at additional risk.  Cesareans are easier for your OB than for you.  They walk out of the operating room and can drive home.  What a shame to have a cesarean, and deal with the repercussions of that in your next pregnancy, such as fighting to VBAC, for no other reason than your OB’s desire for speed.

“Pit to Distress” not only puts babies at risk of oxygen deprivation, moms at risk for a completely preventable cesarean section, and increases the risk of a dozen other complications, but it chips away at the trust that many women feel toward their doctors.  This was the kind of thing that made me scared to birth in a hospital

At home you have the “naturally occurring” complications to deal with, but in the hospital you also have to worry about the risk that doctors knowingly expose you to solely because a.) it’s convenient and b.) they have the resources at the hospital to deal with the possible complications.  Doesn’t that seem like a weird logic?  Imagine this on your hospital’s website:

Come to the hospital because it’s safer! 
Come to the hospital because we have an operating room! 
Disregard the fact that we expose you to unnecessary risks.
Consequently, you are likely to need our advanced equipment.
Feel thankful that when you needed that “emergency” cesarean, we were here.
Feel thankful that we “saved” you and your baby’s life.


Women trust OBs, so when their labors are induced or augmented with Pitocin, women believe it’s because it’s in their best interest.  Because women believe that OBs are always looking out for them, when an OB says that VBACs are risky, most women immediately sign up for their repeat cesarean.  Unfortunately, there are often other reasons why an OB would encourage you to have a repeat cesarean.

In 2007, the California primary cesarean rate was 17.1%.  How many of those women had otherwise unnecessary surgeries as a result of “Pit to Distress?”  How many of those women will manage to VBAC in California where 91.9% of women have repeat cesareans?

Read it directly from a labor & delivery nurse who has experienced it firsthand: “Pit to Distress”: A Disturbing Reality by Nursing Birth.

Watch The Business of Being Born which is available via Netflix’s Instant Play feature.

Read Cytotec Induction and Off-Label Use by Marsden Wagner, MD, MS

Cesarean sections can be life-saving procedures, it’s their misuse that exposes women and babies to unnecessary risk.

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