Synthetic oxytocin and hastening labor: reflections on the synthesis and early use of oxytocin in Brazilian obstetrics

Abstract This article reflects on the medicalization of childbirth, focusing on the development of synthetic oxytocin in 1953. Specifically addressed is the social life of oxytocin; in other words, its synthesis, stabilization, and use in obstetrics to hasten labor. Two Brazilian obstetrics journals of this era were surveyed to analyze the early use of synthetic oxytocin in Brazil in the late 1950s, along with obstetric arguments for or against its use. Notable in this period is the increasingly central role of the obstetrician in childbirth, as well as the recommendation to use different interventions linked together (particularly oxytocin) to shorten labor.