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Improper Use of Pitocin Could Injure Mother or Baby in Birth Process

The Lancione Law Firm

Labor was induced in almost one-quarter of all U.S. births in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC. A common method of starting or stimulating contractions is by intravenous delivery of the drug Pitocin – the synthetic version of the natural hormone oxytocin – to the mother.

Oxytocin is produced in the brain and released into the body to perform several functions, including regulation of the birth process by causing increasingly strong contractions. When medical issues lead a doctor to believe labor should begin or contractions are not progressing properly, he or she may order Pitocin in an attempt to mimic what oxytocin does naturally.

While many babies are safely born after Pitocin use, physicians must carefully determine whether the particular mother and baby are good candidates. During labor and delivery, both must be carefully monitored for signs that the drug should be adjusted or stopped, or that other medical intervention should begin.

A 2013 study by researchers at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City found a statistical correlation between Pitocin and adverse impact on babies, including unexpected admissions to newborn intensive care units for at least one day and reduced Apgar scores, prompting one researcher to urge a “more systematic and conscientious approach” to Pitocin.

Good reasons can exist for inducing birth such as delivery approaching two weeks late, infection, broken water with no labor, slowing fetal growth, placental deterioration or abruption, maternal high blood pressure or diabetes, and previous rapid delivery, according to the Mayo Clinic. To make this decision, the doctor considers several factors, including the baby’s age, size and uterine position as well as the mother’s cervical condition.

Mayo describes that inducing labor may not be appropriate for a mother with a previous C-section or uterine surgery, a placenta blocking the cervix, a small birth canal or genital herpes; or if the baby is transverse or lodged across the uterus. Risks of induced labor include:

  • C-section
  • Decreased oxygen to the baby and lowered heart rate from too many contractions
  • Infections
  • Umbilical cord prolapse that could decrease infant oxygen
  • Uterine rupture that is potentially fatal
  • Maternal bleeding

Therefore, during induced labor, the mother’s contractions as well as the baby’s heart rate should be monitored. Pitocin-induced contractions can become more intense more quickly than they would in a natural labor, underscoring the need for careful monitoring for fetal distress.

Sometimes the appropriate course of action during induced labor is to switch to a C-section. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, signs of acute fetal distress should prompt swift delivery, usually by C-section, to prevent potential uterine rupture, especially in mothers with previous C-sections. The AAFP reports further that in a significant majority of uterine rupture cases, Pitocin has been administered, and that Pitocin misuse is significantly risky to mothers.

Seek Legal Counsel

When a mother or child is injured or dies in association with a Pitocin-induced birth, the victim or his or her survivors should speak with an experienced lawyer who represents victims of medical negligence during labor and delivery. Legal counsel can investigate and evaluate with the help of medical experts whether medical negligence occurred and whether legal remedies are available such as a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit to help with associated medical expenses, including long-term care for associated disabilities, and for other damages.

The attorneys of Lancione & Lancione, LLC, with offices in Columbus and Cleveland, represent parents and children impacted by birth injuries across the state of Ohio.


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