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Can Using Pitocin to Induce Labor Cause Injuries?

If you or your child suffered harm during childbirth, you may be wondering if using Pitocin to induce labor had something to do with it. Labor and delivery is a highly intricate process, requiring incredible knowledge, skill, and diligence on the part of the doctors and medical professionals involved. A single misstep when delivering your child could result in permanent harm to you or them. This includes errors with labor-inducing drugs like Pitocin. Here’s what you need to know about the dangers, indications, and possible side effects of being induced with Pitocin. To find answers to questions about your specific Pitocin injury case, contact our knowledgeable New Jersey birth injury attorneys for help today.

What is Pitocin?

Pitocin, technically known as oxytocin injection or USP, is a form of synthetic oxytocin that may be used to induce labor. This clear, colorless liquid is sterile and may be administered intravenously or through injection in the abdominal muscle. Pitocin is a extracted from the pituitary glands of mammals. Under certain circumstances, doctors may choose to administer Pitocin to stimulate the uterus and induce contractions. The drug’s half-life is between 1 and 6 minutes. If Pitocin is administered through an IV, the uterus typically starts contracting almost immediately and will stop within one hour. Injecting Pitocin intramuscularly takes slightly longer to stimulate a uterine response, usually within 3 to 5 minutes. After that, contractions will typically stop in 2 to 3 hours.

Why is Pitocin Used during Labor?

There are a number of reasons why Pitocin may be used to induce labor or to limit postpartum bleeding or hemorrhage. Some of the medical conditions and factors that may prompt labor induction with Pitocin include:

  • Preeclampsia (maternal hypertension)
  • Gestational diabetes
  • If the condition of the mother or fetus requires
  • Prolonged or stressful labor causing maternal distress
  • Rh problems
  • When membranes rupture prematurely
  • Uterine inertia: the uterus fails to contract sufficiently to deliver the child
  • To empty the uterus in the case of inevitable abortion

When Pitocin Should Not be Used in Childbirth

First and foremost, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend using Pitocin to induce labor if there are no medical indications to do so. This is known as “elective induction of labor,” which is defined as the initiation of labor in a pregnant individual who has no medical indications for induction. Pitocin is not indicated for elective induction of labor, according to the FDA. There are numerous other contraindications (or reasons not to) use Pitocin to induce labor, including:

  • Cephalopelvic disproportion: the baby’s size is too large when compared with the size or shape of the mother’s pelvis;
  • Abnormal fetal position or presentation;
  • In emergency situations where the risk to the mother or fetus is so great that a C-section is required;
  • If the fetus is in distress and the delivery is not imminent;
  • If uterine activity is not making sufficient progress;
  • If the uterus is already hyperactive or hypertonic (hyperstimulated);
  • If a vaginal delivery is not recommended due to conditions such as active genital herpes, total placenta previa, invasive cervical carcinoma, vasa previa, or prolapsed cord or umbilical cord issue; and
  • If the mother is allergic or hypersensitive to the drug

Recommendations when Using Pitocin

The doctor or healthcare provider overseeing your labor and delivery is responsible for determining the appropriateness of Pitocin use, based on the particular circumstances in your case. It is vital that medical professionals evaluate the health and condition of the fetus and the mother before making a decision to induce labor with Pitocin. The FDA provides the following guidance for healthcare professionals administering Pitocin:

  • Trained personnel must be available to keep the mother under continuous observation and prepared to identify complications should they arise.
  • A doctor qualified to manage any potential complications of Pitocin should be immediately available.
  • Electronic fetal monitoring or intrauterine pressure recording should be used to detect overdose as early as possible.
  • Doctors must exercise extreme care if using the drug in the first and second stages of labor, as there is a higher likelihood of maternal and fetal deaths
  • Pitocin is a known antidiuretic, so healthcare providers must consider and take steps to prevent water intoxication

The FDA also warns against using Pitocin, except in highly unusual situations, if the following conditions are present: fetal distress, hydramnios, partial placenta previa, prematurity, borderline cephalopelvic disproportion, and any condition in which there is a predisposition for uterine rupture, such as previous major surgery on the
cervix or uterus including cesarean section, overdistention of the uterus, grand multiparity, or past history of uterine sepsis or of traumatic delivery. The FDA leaves the proper application of the term “unusual circumstances” to the discernment of the doctor.

Risks and Side Effects of Using Pitocin

The following are some of the possible adverse reactions or complications that can arise when using Pitocin to induce contractions:

Complications affecting the Mother:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hypertensive episodes
  • Anaphylactic reaction
  • Premature ventricular contractions
  • Pelvic hematoma
  • Uterine rupture
  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Water intoxication
  • Blood clotting disorder and excessive blood loss that may cause death

Birth Injuries and Fetal Complications:

  • Jaundice
  • Bradycardia
  • Low Apgar scores at five minutes
  • Premature ventricular contractions and arrhythmias
  • Permanent damage to the Central Nervous System (CNS)
  • Brain damage
  • Neonatal retinal hemorrhage
  • Seizures
  • Death

What to do if You or Your Baby was Injured after Being Induced in New Jersey

Sadly, medical professionals may fail to consider all of the risks of labor induction with Pitocin, or fail to take proper care when using the drug. If a healthcare provider makes a mistake when administering Pitocin, inadequately monitors the mother and fetus, or fails to take action when complications arise, severe birth injuries and maternal harm may result. If you or your child suffered injuries related to Pitocin or other negligence during labor and delivery, contact us right away at 866-708-8617 for more information about your legal options. Our highly skilled attorneys handle all forms of medical negligence during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum for victims and families throughout New Jersey. You can also fill out our online form to arrange a free case evaluation.

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