Induction of labor occurs in 9.5 to 33.7 percent of all pregnancies, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Many women wish to forgo pharmaceutical induction of labor with Pitocin and, instead, opt for an herbal option. There are two forms of cohosh used in induction of labor and ripening the cervix; black cohosh and blue cohosh. There are risks and benefits associated with both Pitocin and cohosh. If you are considering using cohosh for the induction of your labor, you should discuss your options with your physician.
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Midwives commonly use a combination of black cohosh, blue cohosh and dong quai to induce uterine contractions and ripen the cervix for labor. Blue cohosh is a spring perennial herb found most commonly in the Allegheny Mountains. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that black cohosh is a flowering plant that grows in eastern North America. Both black and blue cohosh were used by the Native Americans to treat menstrual cramps, heavy menstrual bleeding and to induce labor. The amount of the herbs needed to induce labor is unclear and there is little scientific evidence supporting the use of black and blue cohosh for this purpose.
If used in the proper dosages, black cohosh has very few side effects. However, high doses may cause headaches, nausea, slow heart rate, poor vision, vomiting, weight gain, tremors and joint pain. Drugs.com reports that the FDA thinks blue cohosh is toxic to humans and fetuses and the berries are poisonous to children. Women should avoid the use of cohosh during early pregnancy and only use the herbs to induce labor while under the care of a qualified physician.
Physicians use pitocin to induce uterine contractions in women. Women receive pitocin through intravenous catheter, and the amount needed varies greatly depending on the patient. Qualified obstetric nurses and obstetricians increase or decrease the amount of the drug to find a dose that allows for steady contractions with periods of rest between them. Like many pharmaceutical medications, pitocin has several side effects.
Pitocin Side Effects
Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, allergic reaction, hemorrhaging after delivery, uterine rupture, cardiac arrhythmias, bruising and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Women may also experience damage to the fetus due to increased uterine stimulation including fetal death, brain damage, fetal cardiac arrhythmias, jaundice and hemorrhage of the retinas, according to Drugs.com.
There are pros and cons to using both cohosh and pitocin. However, while the FDA does regulate all pharmaceuticals used in the United States, it does not regulate herbal supplements and cannot guarantee safety, purity or efficacy of these products. You should always discuss the risks and benefits of pitocin and cohosh with your obstetrician and nurse midwife before making any decisions. Never attempt to use cohosh induce labor on your own.