LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Michelle Wymae Wan | Oct 28, 2011

Pitocin and Cerebral Palsy

You’re in labor. You’ve been waiting for hours. Your doctor suggests Pitocin to speed up the contractions. What are the risks?

Pitocin is the brand name given to a synthesized form of oxytocin, a hormone naturally produced by a woman’s body when she goes into labor. When an infant is overdue or labor is taking a dangerously long time, using Pitocin to induce labor can be life-saving. Unfortunately, its misuse can be extremely hazardous for mothers and infants alike.

When the synthetic hormone is injected into a woman’s body, it is supposed to result in uterine contractions and may initiate labor, speed up slow labor or stop bleeding after the baby is born. While Pitocin is generally effective in assisting with the labor process, it does carry some significant risks, especially if there is excessive use of this hormone.

Even in the best case scenarios, though, this can make childbirth much more painful for the mother.

Unfortunately, increased pain is not the only risk of Pitocin. As with all drugs, it is impossible to predict exactly how it will affect any individual person.Fetal monitoring is critical when the mother is given Pitocin. The mother must also be monitored to identify any complications. If the hospital staff fails to do so, the mother may experience hyper-stimulation of uterine contractions.

One widely recognized side effect of the improper use of Pitocin is that of uterine hyperstimulation. When uterine hyperstimulation occurs as a result of tbe excessive use of Pitocin, the uterine muscles will contract too frequently or otherwise will not relax between contractions.

Uterine hyperstimulation can result in a decrease in the perfusion of oxygenated blood from the mother’s placenta to the baby, thereby exposing the baby to the risk of hypoxia and acidosis.

Possible side effects of uterine hyper-stimulation include threats to the mother and child, such as:

  • Fetal oxygen deprivation caused by decreased blood flow or prolonged contractions
  • Placental abruption
  • Uterine rupture
  • Cervical lacerations
  • Internal hemorrhaging for the mother
  • Fetal distress

Complications like these can cause long-lasting injury to the child, including brain damage due to oxygen deprivation, cerebral palsy, musculoskeletal injuries, and potentially even death.

If the hospital staff is following the standards of care, the risks of Pitocin can be managed. However, even small mistakes and failing to respond quickly can be enough to cause severe and permanent harm to the baby.

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