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Inappropriate Administration of Pitocin


Pitocin administration may be performed when labor isn’t progressing, or it hasn’t started at all, in order to get things moving. Pitocin is the synthetic brand name of the labor hormone, Oxytocin. This hormone causes the uterus to contract during labor in addition to contracting after delivery which prevents postpartum hemorrhage. Prolonged labor may present complications for the mother and child, and therefore Pitocin may be used to move the process along if it is delayed.

It is administered intravenously and regulated through a pump. Although generally safe, Pitocin may have adverse effects that may arise when not administered correctly.

Types of Inappropriate Pitocin Administration

One type of incorrect administration of the drug is simply unnecessarily administering it. If contractions are already strong and frequent, it should not be given simply to speed the process.

Giving the right dosage at the right frequency is important. It generally must be started at a lower dose and increased only when necessary. This is determined by how the uterus responds. Failing to detect changes in the response and giving an initial higher dose than is necessary is considered negligent on the part of the healthcare team.

Other types of inappropriate administration include:

  • Incorrectly preparing the drug (wrong amounts of Pitocin and/or saline);
  • increasing dosage too quickly; and
  • failing to reduce dosage when labor has progressed appropriately.

Once contractions become too strong or the baby shows signs of distress, Pitocin administration should be stopped immediately. At this point the mother may require care and the baby’s condition should be evaluated.

There are also numerous complications that can arise when there is an overdose, starting with the mother. The powerful contractions can cause tears and cuts to her vagina and cervix. There is also the risk of postpartum hemorrhaging or organ failure.

Complications with the fetus associated with Pitocin overdose may include low fetal heart rate or oxygen deprivation. This can cause brain damage and lead to medical problems such as cerebral palsy.

Parties That May Be Liable for Pitocin Adverse Effects

Those who are responsible for incorrectly administering Pitocin can include obstetricians, nurses and other medical personnel. Ultimately the treating physician is the one who supervises this, so although someone else might be negligent, he/she could also be responsible.

The facility where the administration took place might also bear liability for the inappropriate administration of the drug and the resulting complications that may arise. This could include a hospital or some other type of birthing center where the drug was administered.

Negligence must be established in these cases to prove liability for the Pitocin adverse effects Proof will be required, which could include copies of medical records, charts, Apgar scores, fetal monitoring strips and any other documentation relevant to the case.

Damages That May Be Recoverable after Pitocin-Related Adverse Effects

The types of damages that could be recovered will depend on the kind of physical harm suffered. When additional medical care and treatment is required, those costs may be included. But future medical expenses should also be addressed when filing a claim against the negligent party.

Let’s say the baby suffers permanent brain damage as a result of oxygen deprivation stemming from incorrect Pitocin administration. There may be costs for long-term treatment associated with these injuries, which may also be recoverable. Pain and suffering, disability and other losses experienced from medical negligence could also be addressed.

Find Help from a Birth Injury Attorney

Talking to an attorney is the best way to learn what types of compensation should be sought. Contact a birth injury attorney at The Becker Law Firm to review adverse effects of improper Pitocin administration.

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