During the birthing process, excessive use of Pitocin can be dangerous.
Pitocin is the synthetic form of Oxytocin, which is a natural hormone produced by a woman’s body. Pitocin causes uterine contractions, and is used during the birthing process to induce labor.
These induced contractions, especially in cases where too much medication was given, can result in a decrease in uterine blood flow, resulting in a reduction of oxygen to the baby’s brain. This lack of oxygen can lead to tissue death, brain damage, and ultimately, the development of cerebral palsy.
Use of Pitocin During Labor
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists approves the use of Pitocin for convenience after the mother-to-be has reached 39 weeks of gestation and her cervix is ripe for delivery. Not all doctors agree with this, and many will only induce labor when one of the following conditions is present:
- The mother is past her due date by approximately two weeks.
- It is necessary to speed up the labor process such as when the water has broken but no contractions are present.
- The administration of an epidural has slowed labor.
Pitocin Risks to the Mother and Child
When the need for the doctor to induce labor is apparent, Pitocin is administered through an IV, and the dosage is slowly increased until the mother is ready for childbirth. Since it does not perfectly mimic the natural production of hormones that are present during labor, complications may arise.
Some pre-existing conditions or medical histories can increase the mothers risk of suffering adverse reactions from the administration of Pitocin. Any woman who has one of the following risk factors should speak with her doctor about the risks and benefits of using Pitocin:
- Severe uterine infection
- Multiple prior pregnancies
- Family history of cervical cancer
- History of labor difficulty due to size of the mother’s pelvis
- Pregnancy that is less that is less than 37 weeks
- Disorder of the heart rhythm
- Previous cervical or uterine surgeries (including C-sections)
- Genital herpes
There are a number of other risks to both mother and baby from the use of Pitocin such as the following:
Your doctor may approve the administration of Pitocin to speed up the delivery process, but they should carefully consider the risks before doing so. Additionally, the fetal vital signs must be closely monitored at this time so that any signs of distress can be mitigated before they result in brain damage to the child. The risks to the unborn child are not always worth the convenience of speeding the natural labor process.
When Pitocin is used, electronic fetal monitoring is a must. Fetal distress is more common when Pitocin is used, and this needs to be detected immediately in order to mitigate any serious injuries. Fetal asphyxia and neonatal hypoxia can result from frequent and/or prolonged uterine contractions, and doctors know to watch for these warning signs.
Pitocin and Cerebral Palsy
The improper use of Pitocin (or when doctors deliberately ignore or fail to recognize signs of fetal distress) may cause the baby to suffer preventable birth injuries resulting in permanent brain damage. This brain damage can then result in the development of the neurological condition known as cerebral palsy.
Restricted oxygen supply or blood flow to an unborn child can result in fetal asphyxia or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), both of which have been associated with the development of cerebral palsy.
Both mothers and doctors need seriously consider the potential consequences before choosing to use Pitocin. If you have any concerns about the risks, speak to your doctor. If you feel as though Pitocin may have led to your child’s development of CP, you may wish to speak to a cerebral palsy attorney to discuss your legal options. Through a medical malpractice claim, you may be able to recover the compensation your child will need for future medical expenses, assistive devices, and much more.