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Understanding Pitocin and the Risks of Medical Negligence

The Becker Law Firm, LPA

When you go into labor, you expect the doctors and medical staff to use the utmost care to make informed decisions and recommendations regarding your delivery. This includes providing accurate information about the benefits and risks associated with Pitocin. When physicians and nurses make mistakes, these mistakes can have profound impacts for the life and wellbeing of both mother and child. Pitocin errors are no exception.

This article provides answers to some important questions about induction and augmentation of labor through use of Pitocin.

What is Pitocin?

Pitocin is the branded synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, which is used to speed up the birthing process. Doctors administer Pitocin for two primary reasons: (1) to induce labor, and (2) to speed up (augment) labor for the health and wellbeing of the mother or child. Induction is most common when a mother is past due. However, it can also be used to jumpstart early-term delivery in appropriate circumstances, such as when a baby’s size and weight put it at increased risk for shoulder dystocia or other delivery complications.

Why is Pitocin So Controversial?

In 2013, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published the results of a study which concluded that using Pitocin to induce and augment labor was, “an independent risk factor for unexpected admission to the NICU lasting more than 24 hours.” The study also linked Pitocin with low Apgar scores. However, the ACOG did not call for an end to use of Pitocin, but simply cautioned against unsystematic and indifferent administration. This was the first scientific study to examine the adverse effects of Pitocin for newborn babies.

Since the study’s release, numerous physicians and researchers have added to the discourse and body of knowledge regarding the risks and benefits of Pitocin.

What are the Risks of Using Pitocin during Childbirth?

Some of the most significant risks associated with Pitocin arise out of improper administration of the drug during labor. Medical negligence in the administration of Pitocin can lead to complications such as:

  • Premature separation of the placenta
  • Fetal heart abnormalities
  • Neonatal retinal hemorrhaging
  • Brain damage
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Oxygen deprivation due to decreased uterine blood flow
  • Jaundice
  • Cardiovascular abnormalities
  • Neonatal hypoxia

For the mother, Pitocin errors can also lead to painful contractions, uterine ruptures, and cervical lacerations. In some cases, Pitocin errors can be fatal for both mother and child.

What are Common Medical Errors Associated with Pitocin Administration?

The most common forms of medical negligence associated with Pitocin administration involve overdose and administration of the drug for longer than is medically necessary. Obstetricians and other physicians owe a duty to their patients to provide appropriate treatment during labor. When a doctor administers Pitocin unnecessarily, administers an incorrect dosage, or fails to stop administration in a timely manner, any injuries or birth defects that result are compensable through a claim for medical negligence or malpractice.

Contact Us to Learn More

Expecting mothers who have questions about Pitocin should speak with their doctors. The Ohio medical malpractice attorneys at BirthInjuryJustice.org can also provide more information about the risks associated with Pitocin and the situations under which doctors can be held responsible for Pitocin errors. To speak with one of our attorneys, call (440) 252-4399 or contact us online today.

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