How Prevalent Is Pitocin Misuse? January 12, 2024.
Labor and delivery can be a frightening time for mothers and their families, especially if it’s their first time having a baby. They may not know what to expect or how to advocate for themselves during the process. These mothers are at a high risk of pitocin misuse, which can have lasting complications for both them and their child.
Here’s what to know about the drug pitocin, how it can be misused, and when medical providers become liable for pitocin-related birth injuries.
Pitocin is a common medication used to augment the labor process. As a synthetic form of oxytocin, it works the same way and causes the uterus to contract. Typically, it’s used to induce labor in late-term pregnancies or to speed up labor that is going too slowly.
According to a study published in the Journal of Perinatal Education of women who gave birth between 2011 and 2012, as many as 31% were given the drug Pitocin to speed up the labor process.
How many of those women actually needed to have their labor augmented is unknown, but another study by the Public Library of Science (PLOS) estimates the misuse rate is as high as 21%. And with only about 5% of women who receive pitocin delivering within 12 hours of administration, the risks become more difficult to justify, especially for women who have no history of complications during pregnancy or birth.
While mothers with less than a high school education were more likely to experience pitocin misuse, the major influencing factors were found to be within the hospital itself. The PLOS study indicated that pitocin misuse happens more often in private hospitals and in maternity wards that deliver less than 2,000 babies per year.
Potential ways that this medication may be misused include administering it when:
- A mother is progressing normally in labor just because she is over 40 weeks gestation
- A mother has been laboring for a long time but testing shows she and the baby are in good health
- A mother has a history of previous uterine injury or surgery
- The baby has cord presentation or prolapse
- The baby is in breech position
It’s also possible for a medical professional to be justified in using pitocin but to administer too much or not enough, ultimately still resulting in a birth injury.
What Are the Potential Dangers of Pitocin?
The most common side effects of pitocin are painful contractions, nausea, and fever. However, severe complications can also arise, including but not limited to:
- Hyperstimulation of the uterus
- Uterine rupture
- Low blood pressure
- Low sodium levels
- Blood loss
- Allergic reaction
- Fetal distress
- Cerebral palsy
When Medical Providers Are Liable for Pitocin Misuse
More often than not, doctors and nurses are following the pitocin protocols of the hospital. These are usually determined by hospital higher-ups, many of them in administration and without clinical experience.
In cases where these facilities have inadequate or improper protocols, the hospital itself may be where the buck essentially stops. However, if a provider deviated from the protocol and an injury occurred, that provider may be the responsible party – even if the protocol itself was flawed.
Medical professionals have a duty to use pitocin safely and hospitals should have clear directions on how their particular facility uses the medication. Failure to do so can have severe financial consequences for both families of babies who were injured and hospitals or physicians who are successfully sued for malpractice.
Are medical professionals ever not responsible for pitocin injuries?
Sometimes, accidents happen. Even if doctors do everything right, there’s still a small chance that a mother and baby could become injured during birth. But there are dozens of moving parts at play and most birth injuries can actually be avoided by competent physicians who adhere to established best practices in the field of labor and delivery.
If a doctor is sued for any kind of complication, they must be able to successfully illustrate that they did everything that any other provider in the same specialty would have and that regardless of their appropriate actions, the injury still occurred.
How to Recover After Pitocin-Related Birth Injury
Unfortunately, the misuse of pitocin in labor and delivery wards throughout Ohio and even across the nation is prevalent. The Mellino Law Firm has helped many families just like yours deal with the aftermath of a devastating birth injury. We can help you recover the ongoing medical costs of a permanently birth-injured child. Contact us today by calling (440) 333-3800 for your free initial case consultation.