Dangerous Pitocin Side Effects On The Mother and Baby May 31, 2024.

Dangerous Pitocin Side Effects On The Mother and Baby

Some mothers need assistance to begin or progress labor, so they will be induced. This process starts when the woman is given a synthetic hormone, like Pitocin.

What is Pitocin?

Many different hormones are released during labor, one of these hormones being Oxytocin. Oxytocin makes the uterus contract, which helps the cervix open and prepare for birth. But, in some cases, the doctor may need to induce the woman with Pitocin. 

Pitocin is a synthetic hormone, which essentially mimics Oxytocin. The hormone stimulates the muscles in the uterus, which causes them to contract and dilate the cervix.

Instances where Pitocin is used to induce labor include:

  • The baby is 1 or 2 weeks overdue.

  • The mother’s water broke, but labor hasn't started.

  • The mother has an infection.

  • The mother has preeclampsia.

  • The mother is having weak contractions.

Though Pitocin is commonly used to induce labor, it can cause serious side effects for both the mother and baby if it is misused.

Is Pitocin Safe During Labor?

Pitocin has a black box warning, which is the Food and Drug Administration's highest warning on certain drugs. Drugs with a black box warning carry serious side effects, including injuries or death.

But, Pitocin is not necessarily a dangerous drug if it is administered correctly under the right circumstances. 

However, it can become dangerous if the mother is given an excessive dose, or is given the drug when they don’t need it. Therefore, it is crucial that the Pitocin dosage is carefully calculated and that the baby and mother are monitored so they don’t experience dangerous side effects.

Potential Pitocin Side Effects on the Mother

Pitocin can have side effects on the mother during and after the labor process. Some side effects will subside once labor is finished, but other side effects can cause long-term issues.

Uterine Hyperstimulation 

When Pitocin is administered the mother needs to be monitored very closely. If too much Pitocin is given, or it is given too frequently, then uterine hyperstimulation can occur. This is when contractions last for 2+ minutes, or there are 5 or more contractions within 10 minutes.

During contractions, the placenta is briefly compressed until the contraction is done, causing reduced blood flow and oxygen to the baby. 

If the pitocin is misused and the mother experiences long, or frequent contractions, then the baby won't have time to recover between contractions. This can cause oxygen deprivation to the infant.

Uterine Rupture

Uterine ruptures are more likely to happen after uterine overstimulation. This complication typically only happens to women who previously had a C-section. A uterine rupture can cause the placenta to become detached which can cause maternal hemorrhaging.

Postpartum Hemorrhage

Postpartum Hemorrhaging, or excessive bleeding, can occur when a woman is exposed to Pitocin for a prolonged amount of time. During a recent study, 2,200 patients received Pitocin while being induced for labor. Women who were exposed to Pitocin for 12+ hours were 52% more likely to experience a hemorrhage after delivering their baby.

Delivery Complications

Induced labor increases the risk of complications during delivery. Studies show that there is an increased risk of needing extra assistance after being induced. Tools that assist the baby through the birth canal are forceps or a vacuum. These tools can cause birth injuries such as brain damage, seizures, and cerebral palsy. 

Potential Pitocin Side Effects on the Baby

Pitocin can also cause dangerous side effects to the baby if they are not being properly monitored throughout birth. These side effects can unfortunately leave the child with life-long disabilities.

Fetal Distress

Increased contractions, due to hyperstimulation, can reduce the blood and oxygen flow to the baby between contractions. This causes fetal distress, which essentially means that the baby is not doing well during labor. Unfortunately, if fetal distress is not promptly addressed then it can cause brain injuries, cerebral palsy, or stillbirth.

Fetal Arrhythmia 

Intense and frequent contractions from Pitocin can cause fetal arrhythmia. This is when a baby has an abnormally fast (tachycardia) or slow (bradycardia) heart rate. Fetal arrhythmia is a tell-tale sign of the baby having extreme stress during labor. Arrhythmia can cause heart failure, birth asphyxia, and fetal hydrops.

Shoulder Dystocia

The use of Pitocin to induce labor increases the risk of shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia is when the baby’s shoulders are stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone. In some of these cases, medical providers use excessive force to pull the baby through the birth canal. 

Shoulder dystocia can cause permanent brachial plexus injuries, resulting in total paralysis of the affected arm. In some cases, the brachial plexus nerves will heal over time, and the child will be able to use their affected arm. In other cases, where the nerves never fully heal, then the child may never be able to use their injured arm.

Cerebral Palsy

If a baby doesn't receive enough oxygen during the birthing process, then they may be left with permanent neurological disorders. Many studies have discovered that babies that had pitocin used in their birth, are at a higher risk for developing hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy that can cause cerebral palsy.

These are permanent injuries that the child will have to manage for their entire life. There are treatment options that can help children with day-to-day life, but there is no cure for cerebral palsy.

What to Do If Pitocin Injured You or Your Baby

Medical providers are required to monitor the mother and baby while administering Pitocin. If they fail to meet the standard of care, and the mother or baby is injured, then the family may have to deal with the consequences.

If you believe that Pitocin misuse caused injuries to you or your baby, it is important to contact a medical malpractice attorney. An attorney will be able to look through the medical records to determine if the injuries were caused by a medical provider's negligence.

If the attorney finds that the injuries were caused by negligence, they will be able to file your medical malpractice lawsuit and guide your family through the legal process.

Contact our Cleveland Medical Malpractice Attorneys 

The Mellino Law Firm has extensive experience helping families recover compensation for medical malpractice during labor. We’ve helped hundreds of families recover financial compensation after severe injuries changed their lives.

We encourage you to contact our firm, by calling our office at (440) 333-3800  to schedule a free consultation.