Cytotec (misoprostol) is a medication that was originally developed to prevent stomach ulcers. However, it also has the ability to induce labor contractions. If your provider recommends using Cytotec to induce your labor, knowing what to expect can help you feel prepared.
What is Cytotec?
The active ingredient in Cytotec is misoprostol. This is a prostaglandin medication that ripens the cervix and stimulates contractions of the uterus. These effects work to initiate labor.
Cytotec comes in tablets of 100mcg or 200mcg that can be taken by mouth, inserted vaginally, or placed under the tongue.
Why is Cytotec Used for Labor Induction?
Reasons your provider may recommend using Cytotec for induction include:
- You are past your due date and labor has not started naturally
- There are concerns for the baby’s wellbeing if the pregnancy continues
- You have a medical condition like diabetes or high blood pressure that makes inducing preferable
- Your water has broken but contractions have not begun
Cytotec helps “kickstart” the labor process when the body is not starting on its own.
What Should You Expect With a Cytotec Induction?
Here is an overview of what typically happens during a Cytotec induction:
- The initial dose is typically 25-50mcg inserted into the vagina. This helps ripen the cervix.
- After a few hours, another 25-50mcg dose may be given if needed.
- Lower doses are used at first to minimize the chance of hyperstimulation.
- Many women will begin feeling contractions within 2-4 hours after the first Cytotec dose.
- The contractions may feel like moderate menstrual cramps at first.
- Contractions will gradually increase in strength and frequency.
- If contractions are not strong enough after the initial doses, additional doses of 50-100mcg every 3-6 hours may be given.
- The provider will monitor baby’s heart rate and contraction intensity to guide dosing.
- Doses are not typically given once active labor is established.
- After several hours of progressively intensifying contractions, active labor is usually achieved.
- Contractions are strong, 1-2 minutes apart, and dilating the cervix.
- Once 4-5cm dilated, you will be in the active labor phase.
- With active labor progressing, you will move through transition and be ready to deliver the baby.
- Second stage labor and pushing may take 1-2 hours for first time moms.
- The provider will guide you when to push as the cervix becomes fully dilated.
Cytotec Induction Tips and Precautions
To have the smoothest experience possible with Cytotec induction:
- Rest and hydrate well in the days leading up. Inductions can be prolonged.
- Have your partner or support person present to provide comfort measures.
- Eat a light meal before checking in since you may not be allowed to eat once admitted.
- Arrive with battery charged devices, pillows, and other comfort items you may want.
- Use techniques like breathing, relaxation, movement, and hydrotherapy to manage contractions.
- Follow nurse instructions closely and report any concerning symptoms.
- Allow labor to progress at its own pace; there are no time limits.
Cytotec makes the induction process easier to tolerate than some other methods. Being prepared helps you know what to expect during the progression. With an informed and supported labor, you will be ready to welcome your baby.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for Cytotec to induce labor?
It typically takes around 2-6 hours after the first dose to start feeling contractions. Most women deliver within 24 hours, but it can be longer.
What are the risks of Cytotec induction?
Risks are low but include possible excessive bleeding, fast labor, uterus rupture in rare cases, and distress to the baby if contractions become too frequent.
Is Cytotec or Pitocin better for induction?
Most providers prefer to start with Cytotec, as it mimics natural labor more closely. Pitocin may follow if needed.
Can Cytotec cause any birth defects?
No evidence shows Cytotec causes defects when used for induction at term. It should be avoided earlier in pregnancy due to potential risks.
How painful is Cytotec induction?
Every woman experiences pain differently. Cytotec contractions are often more gradual and tolerable than those from other induction methods.
- Initial low dose(s) to ripen cervix
- Contractions increase over 2-6 hours
- Additional doses given if needed
- Active labor achieved after several hours
- Labor progresses to pushing and delivery
- Start like menstrual cramps then intensify
- Come every 5-10 minutes, lasting 1 minute
- Increase in strength, frequency, duration over hours
- Consistent pattern marks active labor
- Use positions, movement, hydrotherapy for comfort
- Rest and hydrate well in advance
- Have partner or support person present
- Pack comfort items like pillows and electronics
- Eat light meal before admittance
- Use relaxation and pain relief techniques
- Allow labor to progress at its own pace
- Report any concerning symptoms to nurse
- Mimics body’s natural labor process
- Causes ripening of cervix first
- Contractions may feel more gradual
- Artificially starts contractions
- Doesn’t initially ripen cervix
- Contractions may feel more intense
Many providers will start with Cytotec and follow with Pitocin if needed.