Bales KL, Perkeybile AM, Conley OG Chronic intranasal oxytocin causes long-term impairments in partner preference formation in male prairie voles. Biol Psychiatry. 2013; 74:(3)180-8

Baskerville TA, Douglas A Interactions between dopamine and oxytocin in the control of sexual behaviour. Prog Brain Res. 2008; 170:277-90

Beebe L, Beaty C, Rayburn W Immediate neonatal outcomes after elective induction of labor. J Reprod Med. 2007; 52:(3)173-5

Bell AF, Erickson EN, Carter CS Beyond labor: the role of natural and synthetic oxytocin in the transition to motherhood. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2014; 59:(1)35-42

Blanks AM, Thornton S The role of oxytocin in parturition. BJOG. 2003; 110:46-51

Brotanek V, Hendricks CH, Yoshida T Changes in uterine blood flow during uterine contractions. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1969; 103:(8)1108-16

Calder AA, Loughney AD, Weir CJ, Barber JW Induction of labour in nulliparous and multiparous women: a UK, multicentre, open-label study of intravaginal misoprostol in comparison with dinoprostone. BJOG. 2008; 115:(10)1279-88

Ceanga M, Spataru A, Zagrean AM Oxytocin is neuroprotective against oxygen–glucose deprivation and reoxygenation in immature hippocampal cultures. Neurosci Lett. 2010; 477:(1)15-18

Champagne FA Epigenetic mechanisms and the transgenerational effects of maternal care. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2008; 29:(3)386-97

Churchland PS, Winkielman P Modulating social behaviour with oxytocin: how does it work? What does it mean?. Horm Behav. 2012; 61:(3)392-9

Clark SL, Miller DD, Belfort MA Neonatal and maternal outcomes associated with elective term delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009; 200:(2)156.e1-e4

Csaba G Hormonal imprinting: its role during the evolution and development of hormones and receptors. Cell Biol Int. 2000; 24:(7)407-14

Cunningham F, Leveno K, Bloom S, 23rd edn. New York: McGraw Hill; 2010

Declercq ER, Sakala C, Corry MP, Applebaum S Listening to Mothers II: Report of the Second National U.S. Survey of Womens Childbearing Experiences. J Perinat Educ. 2007; 16:(4)9-14

Emberti Gialloreti L, Benvenuto A, Benassi F, Curatolo P Are caesarean sections, induced labor and oxytocin regulation linked to Autism Spectrum Disorders?. Med Hypotheses. 2014; 82:(6)713-18

Fein D, Allen D, Dunn M Pitocin induction and autism. Am J Psychiatry. 1997; 154:(3)438b-9

Feldman R Oxytocin and social affiliation in humans. Horm Behav. 2012; 61:(3)380-91

Feldman R, Gordon I, Schneiderman I Natural variations in maternal and paternal care are associated with systematic changes in oxytocin following parent–infant contact. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2010; 35:(8)1133-41

Fernández OI, Martínez MAM, Gabriel MMÁ Effect of intrapartum oxytocin administration on first latch and breastfeeding behaviour: 359. Pediatr Res. 2010; 68

Fernández OI, Gabriel MMÁ, Martínez MAM Newborn feeding behaviour depressed by intrapartum oxytocin: a pilot study. Acta Paediatr. 2012; 101:(7)749-54

Fuchs AR, Fuchs F, Husslein P, Soloff MS Oxytocin receptors in the human uterus during pregnancy and parturition. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1984; 150:(6)734-41

Fuchs AR, Goeschen K, Husslein P, Rasmussen AB, Fuchs F Oxytocin and the initiation of human parturition. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1983; 147:(5)497-502

Gale S, Ozonoff S, Lainhart J Brief report: pitocin induction in autistic and nonautistic individuals. J Autism Dev Disord. 2003; 33:(2)205-8

Genazzani AR, Petraglia F, Facchinetti F, Galli PA, Volpe A Lack of beta-endorphin plasma level rise in oxytocin-induced labor. Gynecol Obstet Invest. 1985; 19:(3)130-4

Gilbert CL, Goode JA, McGrath TJ Pulsatile secretion of oxytocin during parturition in the pig: temporal relationship with fetal expulsion. J Physiol. 1994; 475:(1)129-37

Gregory SG, Anthopolos R, Osgood CE, Grotegut CA, Miranda ML Association of autism with induced or augmented childbirth in North Carolina Birth Record (1990-1998) and Education Research (19972007) databases. JAMA Pediatr. 2013; 167:(10)959-66

Guerra GV, Cecatti JG, Souza JP Factors and outcomes associated with the induction of labour in Latin America. BJOG. 2009; 116:(13)1762-72

Gülmezoglu AM, Crowther CA, Middleton P Induction of labour for improving birth outcomes for women at or beyond term. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006; (4)

Hertelendy F, Zakár T Prostaglandins and the myometrium and cervix. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2004; 70:(2)207-22

Homer CSE, Johnston R, Foureur MJ Birth after caesarean section: changes over a nine-year period in one Australian state. Midwifery. 2011; 27:(2)165-9

Huleihel M, Lunenfeld E, Horowitz S Expression of IL-12, IL-10, PGE2, sIL-2R and sIL-6R in seminal plasma of fertile and infertile men. Andrologia. 1999; 31:(5)283-8

Jonas W, Johansson LM, Nissen E Effects of intrapartum oxytocin administration and epidural analgesia on the concentration of plasma oxytocin and prolactin, in response to suckling during the second day postpartum. Breastfeed Med. 2009; 4:(2)71-82

Kappeler L, Meaney MJ Epigenetics and parental effects. BioEssays. 2010; 32:(9)818-27

Kavanagh J, Kelly AJ, Thomas J Sexual intercourse for cervical ripening and induction of labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2001; (2)

Khazipov R, Tyzio R, Ben-Ari Y Effects of oxytocin on GABA signalling in the foetal brain during delivery. Prog Brain Res. 2008; 170:243-57

Komisaruk B, Beyer-Flores C, Whipple BBaltimore: John Hopkins University Press; 2006

Kroll-Desrosiers AR, Nephew BC, Babb JA Association of peripartum synthetic oxytocin administration and depressive and anxiety disorders within the first postpartum year. Depress Anxiety. 2017; 34:(2)137-46

Landon MB, Spong CY, Thom E Risk of uterine rupture with a trial of labor in women with multiple and single prior cesarean delivery. Obstet Gynecol. 2006; 108:(1)12-20

Lawrence A, Lewis L, Hofmeyr GJ, Styles C Maternal positions and mobility during first stage labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013; (10)

Leng G, Meddle S, Douglas A Oxytocin and the maternal brain. Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2008; 8:(6)731-4

Levin R, Meston C Nipple/Breast stimulation and sexual arousal in young men and women. J Sex Med. 2006; 3:(3)450-4

Lowe NK The pain and discomfort of labor and birth. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 1996; 25:(1)82-92

Matias SL, Nommsen-Rivers LA, Creed-Kanashiro H, Dewey KG Risk factors for early lactation problems among Peruvian primiparous mothers. Matern Child Nutr. 2010; 6:(2)120-33

Mens WBJ, Witter A, Van Wimersma Greidanus TB Penetration of neurohypophyseal hormones from plasma into cerebrospinal fluid (CSF): half-times of disappearance of these neuropeptides from CSF. Brain Res. 1983; 262:(1)143-9

Mishanina E, Rogozinska E, Thatthi T Use of labour induction and risk of cesarean delivery: a systematic review and meta-analysis. CMAJ. 2014; 186:(9)665-73

Mollart LJ, Adam J, Foureur M Impact of acupressure on onset of labour and labour duration: A systematic review. Women Birth. 2015; 28:(3)199-206

Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N, Dowswell T Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012; 5:(5)CD003519-CD003519

Mota-Rojas D, Trujillo ME, Martínez J Comparative routes of oxytocin administration in crated farrowing sows and its effects on fetal and postnatal asphyxia. Anim Reprod Sci. 2006; 92:(1–2)123-43

Nissen E, Uvnäs-Moberg K, Svensson K Different patterns of oxytocin, prolactin but not cortisol release during breastfeeding in women delivered by Caesarean section or by the vaginal route. Early Hum Dev. 1996; 45:(1–2)103-18

Nomura S, Ito T, Yamamoto E Gene regulation and physiological function of placental leucine aminopeptidase/oxytocinase during pregnancy. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Proteins and Proteomics. 2005; 1751:(1)19-25

Nuutila M, Kajanoja P Local administration of prostaglandin E 2 for cervical ripening and labor induction: the appropriate route and dose. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1996; 75:(2)135-8

Ounsted MK, Hendrick AM, Mutch LMM, Calder AA, Good FJ Induction of labour by different methods in primiparous women I. Some perinatal and postnatal problems. Early Hum Dev. 1978; 2:(3)227-39

Petraglia F, Facchinetti F, Dambrogio G, Volpe A, Genazzani AR Somatostatin and oxytocin infusion inhibits the rise of plasma β-endorphin, β-lipotrophin and cortisol induced by insulin hypoglycaemia. Horumon To Rinsho. 1986; 24:(6)609-16

Phaneuf S, Rodríguez Liñares B, TambyRaja RL Loss of myometrial oxytocin receptors during oxytocin-induced and oxytocin-augmented labour. J Reprod Fertil. 2000; 120:(1)91-7

Rath W, Tsikouras P Misoprostol for Labour Induction after Previous Caesarean Section – Forever a No Go?. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 2015; 75:(11)1140-7

Romano AM, Lothian JA Promoting, protecting, and supporting normal birth: a look at the evidence. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2008; 37:(1)94-105

Russell JA, Leng G, Douglas AJ The magnocellular oxytocin system, the fount of maternity: adaptations in pregnancy. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2003; 24:(1)27-61

Saisto T, Kaaja R, Helske S, Ylikorkala O, Halmesmäki E Norepinephrine, adrenocorticotropin, cortisol and beta-endorphin in women suffering from fear of labor: responses to the cold pressor test during and after pregnancy. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2004; 83:(1)19-26

Salonia A, Nappi RE, Pontillo M Menstrual cycle-related changes in plasma oxytocin are relevant to normal sexual function in healthy women. Horm Behav. 2005; 47:(2)164-9

Sananès N, Rodriguez M, Stora C Efficacy and safety of labour induction in patients with a single previous Caesarean section: a proposal for a clinical protocol. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2014; 290:(4)669-76

Savaskan E, Ehrhardt R, Schulz A, Walter M, Schächinger H Post-learning intranasal oxytocin modulates human memory for facial identity. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2008; 33:(3)368-74

Schwarze CE, Hellhammer DH, Stroehle V, Lieb K, Mobascher A Lack of Breastfeeding: A Potential Risk Factor in the Multifactorial Genesis of Borderline Personality Disorder and Impaired Maternal Bonding. J Pers Disord. 2015; 29:(5)610-26

Smith CA Homoeopathy for induction of labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003; (4)

Smith CA, Crowther CA, Grant SJ Acupuncture for induction of labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013; (8)

Trotman H, Henny-Harry C Factors associated with extreme hyperbilirubinaemia in neonates at the University Hospital of the West Indies. Paediatrics and International Child Health. 2012; 32:(2)97-101

Tyzio R, Cossart R, Khalilov I Maternal oxytocin triggers a transient inhibitory switch in GABA signaling in the fetal brain during delivery. Science. 2006; 314:(5806)1788-92

Uvnäs-Moberg K Antistress pattern induced by oxytocin. News Physiol Sci. 1998; 13:22-5

Weisman O, Agerbo E, Carter CS Oxytocin-augmented labor and risk for autism in males. Behav Brain Res. 2015; 284:207-12

Wood S, Cooper S, Ross S Does induction of labour increase the risk of caesarean section? A systematic review and meta-analysis of trials in women with intact membranes. BJOG. 2014; 121:(6)674-85

Young LJ, Muns S, Wang Z, Insel TR Changes in oxytocin receptor mRNA in rat brain during pregnancy and the effects of estrogen and interleukin-6. J Neuroendocrinol. 1997; 9:(11)859-65

Labour and beyond: The roles of synthetic and endogenous oxytocin in transition to motherhood

02 April 2017
16 min read
Volume 25 · Issue 4


During spontaneous labour, endogenous oxytocin is released from the pituitary gland and initiates uterine contractions. In some women, it is necessary to induce or augment labour contractions. Induction or augmentation of labour using synthetic oxytocin (Syntocinon) is one of the most common interventions to facilitate the progress of labour and birth. Both Syntocinon and endogenous oxytocin affect the body through oxytocin receptors. Although the use of Syntocinon is regarded as a relatively safe intervention during labour, it works in a different way from endogenous oxytocin and has different effects on the mother and child. Syntocinon may negatively affect birth outcomes for mother and baby, interfere with the success of lactation and breastfeeding, impair the mother-child attachment and may affect the child's development. We review the effect of endogenous oxytocin and Syntocinon on the health and wellbeing of women during labour and after birth, discuss the benefits of endogenous oxytocin and highlight some adverse effects of Syntocinon.

In the course of spontaneous physiological labour, endogenous oxytocin is released from the pituitary gland and initiates uterine contractions. However, when it is deemed medically necessary to induce or augment labour contractions, synthetic oxytocin (Syntocinon) is administered intravenously. Induction or augmentation of labour using Syntocinon is one of the most common interventions for facilitating the progress of labour and birth (Wood et al, 2014). Between 30% and 50% of women receive Syntocinon for augmentation of labour, and 50–70% receive it for induction of labour (Calder et al, 2008). In addition, Syntocinon is often administered intramuscularly after the birth of the baby and during the third stage of labour to prevent post-partum haemorrhage. The administration of Syntocinon depends on a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, maternal medical conditions if they become problematic and necessitate the induction of labour (i.e. hypertension, gestational diabetes, obstetric cholestasis) and fetal indications (i.e. macrosomia, small for gestational age, oligohydramnios, abnormalities) (Declercq et al, 2007).

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting British Journal of Midwifery and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for midwives. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to our clinical or professional articles

  • Unlimited access to the latest news, blogs and video content

  • Monthly email newsletter