Pitocin – a synthetic form of the hormone Oxytocin – promotes contractions during childbirth. Although it has been used for many years by obstetricians and midwives to induce and speed up the labor process, research has uncovered a strong correlation between synthetic oxytocin and brain damage in babies.
In the UK, this correlation has prompted well-respected physicians and medical facilities to reconsider its use. A professor and consultant at London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital have called for Pitocin to only be administered in a few cases where labor must be induced due to dangerous conditions like preeclampsia (high blood pressure) or post-term pregnancies (1).
Closer to home, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices placed oxytocin on its “high-alert” drug list (2). Drugs that appear on this list carry a risk of causing significant harm if used incorrectly. Specifically, AJOG highlighted the need for a “uniform, unambiguous, and pre-established” method for administering Pitocin to patients. They believed this was necessary to avoid “close calls” and ensure patient safety. AJOG went on to say that Pitocin should be started in patients at low doses, should remain at the lowest necessary levels, and that fetal monitoring must occur to track contractions and the baby’s heart rate. Furthermore, a C-Section should be done when Pitocin is not working or if signs of distress appear.
What risks does Pitocin pose?
Pitocin works by promoting uterine contractions. Because contractions briefly interrupt the baby’s oxygen supply, they should not occur more than 6 times about every ten minutes (3). When Pitocin is administered, it may speed up the frequency and intensity of contractions (this is known as uterine hyperstimulation). If contractions occur too rapidly there may not be enough time for the baby to recover in between contractions, resulting in oxygen deprivation. This can lead to a condition called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) (birth asphyxia). This form of brain damage can lead to a lifetime of physical and intellectual disabilities for the baby.
Additionally, when synthetic oxytocin causes uterine hyperstimulation, contractions become less effective at pushing the baby out. Due to this, labor becomes prolonged, increasing the likelihood of HIE.
Numerous studies have been done on the negative effects of Pitocin during labor and delivery and its correlation to brain damage in babies. Yet this delivery drug remains one of the most widely used among obstetricians. Unless stricter guidelines are uniformly enacted, babies will continue to be at risk of HIE when Pitocin is used.
Birth injury attorneys representing victims of medical malpractice from Pitocin misuse
If you’re seeking legal help for an injury resulting from misuse of Pitocin, it’s critical to choose an attorney and firm that focuses closely on birth injury cases. ABC Law Centers is a national birth injury law firm that has been helping children with injuries since 1997. Our attorneys have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children, and are leaders within the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and other industry associations.
We have helped to obtain compensation for lifelong treatment, therapy, and a secure future for children with birth injuries. Our nationally recognized birth injury firm has numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that are a testament to our success.
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- Olah, K. S., & Steer, P. J. (2015). The use and abuse of oxytocin. Retrieved from https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/tog.12222.
- Simpson, K. R., & Knox, G. E. (2009, January/February). Oxytocin as a high-alert medication: Implications for perinatal patient safety. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19104313.
- Stewart, R. D., Bleich, A. T., Lo, J. Y., Alexander, J. M., McIntire, D. D., & Leveno, K. J. (2012, October). Defining uterine tachysystole: How much is too much? Retrieved from https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(12)00784-3/abstract.