Inducing Labor with Pitocin: Potential Side Effects

Pitocin can help start a stalled labor, but misuse of the drug can have a devastating effect.


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Pitocin is a synthetic form of the naturally occurring hormone oxytocin. It is used during some births as a means to induce or expedite labor and delivery. When used carefully, pitocin can help start a stalled labor and reduce fetal distress. On the other hand, improper, or over use of the drug can have a devastating and permanent impact on the health of the baby.

Why is Pitocin Used and What are the Risks?

Pitocin is used during labor for a variety of medical reasons, and should not be used unless necessary, due to the inherent danger of inducing labor. Labor induction is usually used for the following reasons:

  • An illness or complication with the fetus
  • Illness of the mother, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or uterine infection
  • Continuous problems during the gestation period

These are just a few of the many reasons a doctor may opt for induction. However, these must be weighed against potential risks of induction:

Placental Abruption

Also called placenta abruptio, this is a separation of the placental lining from the uterus.

Fetal Distress

Usually diagnosed by irregularities with the fetal heartbeat signaling potential for brain injury.

Rupture of the Uterus

Unterine rupture is a potentially catastrophic event for both baby and mother.

Other Risks of Inducing Labor

Increased risk of complications, premature birth, and requirement of fetal monitoring, and pain relief.

If the medical staff performs their duty with the required level of care, the risks of pitocin can be managed. However, even apparently subtle mistakes, or untimely response to changes in circumstances can be enough to cause severe and permanent harm to the baby.

How Pitocin Can Cause Injury During Birth

While the benefits of using pitocin are well established, if dosage is not carefully measured and the fetus monitored properly, the drug can cause serious injury. There have been many cases of medical staff failing to react properly to changes in the fetal heartbeat while administering pitocin.

In cases of fetal distress, it is critical that medical staff cease administration of pitocin, and, in many cases, opt instead for an immediate cesarean section (c-section). A failure to react quickly to changes in the fetal heartbeat and stop the administration of pitocin can result in permanent brain damage, or even cerebral palsy.

What Happens if a Doctor’s Negligence Harms a Baby During Birth?

In cases where the doctor or hospital staff failed to perform according to acceptable standards of care, they may be found liable for any resulting injury. The compensation for this negligence can be recovered by the victims through a medical malpractice lawsuit. This is, however, one of the most complicated areas of law and requires an experienced medical malpractice attorney to properly handle the case.

Anyone who has suffered an injury due to medical malpractice should consider talking to a medical malpractice lawyer to get legal advice regarding options for compensation. These attorneys are uniquely qualified to offer legal advice and guidance regarding cases of medical negligence, and most will offer a free consultation where the victims can get the answers they need.

by: Dennis Abrams

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