Learn the facts and find out how to get help
Near the end of pregnancy, a woman’s body releases a hormone known as oxytocin to prepare for birth. This hormone is responsible for triggering the labor process, including uterine contractions.
Unfortunately, this process can sometimes fail to start on its own or unexpectedly stall. In some instances, doctors may find it necessary to induce labor using a medication that mimics the hormone oxytocin. This medication is called Pitocin.
Although Pitocin has been used extensively in the labor and delivery process and can be quite effective, the use of this medication can also increase the risk of injury to both mother and baby.
How is Pitocin administered?
Pitocin is administered intravenously (through an I.V. line). Once administered, the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it begins to stimulate contractions in the same way that oxytocin would naturally.
What is Pitocin used for?
In most cases, Pitocin is used to induce the beginning of labor in cases where the baby is overdue, and labor hasn’t begun on its own or has become stalled. In other instances, this drug may be used to strengthen contractions or decrease the amount of time between contractions.
Risks of Pitocin
It’s important to note that while Pitocin is an effective drug, it’s not without risks. Studies have shown that the risk of birth injuries increases with the use of Pitocin. For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued its strongest possible warning regarding the use of Pitocin.
Dosage is particularly important when it comes to administering Pitocin. The side effects of Pitocin can vary significantly among women, with some women’s bodies being highly sensitive to the same dose that may elicit no effect in other women.
Further complicating the matter is the fact that Pitocin has a delayed reaction time. In most instances, the drug doesn’t produce a result until at least half an hour after it’s administered. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for a second dose to be administered before the first dose has had a chance to fully take effect.
Hyperstimulation is another problem associated with the use of Pitocin. The placenta, which is attached to the uterine wall, plays a key role in delivering nutrients and oxygen from the mother to the baby until the baby is able to survive on its own. During labor, contractions cause the placenta to become compressed, thereby restricting the flow of oxygen and blood to the baby. This interruption lasts until each contraction subsides.
Because of this, ample rest between contractions is crucial for the baby to receive adequate oxygen before the next contraction begins. Should the flow of oxygen and blood to the baby be compromised for any reason, the baby could face serious health risks.
When a woman’s body is overly sensitive to Pitocin, her uterine muscles may become hyperstimulated. This can result in contractions that last too long or are too powerful, leading to stress on the placenta and baby. In such situations, the baby could suffer from oxygen deprivation, which is a leading cause of birth injuries such as cerebral palsy.
Possible side effects of Pitocin on baby and mother
Because Pitocin isn’t a natural hormone, the mother’s body may respond differently to the administration of this drug than the oxytocin her body makes naturally. Doctors should closely monitor both mother and baby when administering Pitocin to evaluate how the mother is responding to the drug and determine whether the mother may also be producing oxytocin on her own.
An overdose of Pitocin can result in adverse side effects for both the mother and the baby. Possible maternal side effects of Pitocin from overstimulation of the uterus (a condition known as Tachysystole) include:
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Uterine rupture
- Maternal stroke
- Maternal death
Possible Pitocin side effects on the baby include:
- Decreased heart rate and blood pressure
- Cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Increased intracranial pressure
- Infant seizures
- Brain hemorrhage
- Brain damage
- Fetal stroke
- Fetal death
What to do if Pitocin caused a birth injury or defect
If you believe your child’s birth injury may have been caused by Pitocin use during your labor and delivery, it’s important that you seek experienced legal representation as soon as possible. A child suffering from a birth injury or disability often requires expensive life-long care, which can put undue strain on your entire family.
Laura Brown has years of experience in birth injury law, helping families like yours get the compensation they deserve. If you need help with your birth injury lawsuit, contact the Brown Trial Firm today for your free consultation.
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