Failure to Properly Administer and Monitor Pitocin
Pitocin is a drug used by many (OBGYN) doctors to induce or speed up the labor and delivery process. Pitocin is a synthetic version of a naturally produced hormone called Oxytocin. Oxytocin is released naturally in a woman's body and works to stimulate contractions in the uterine muscles to help in the delivery of a baby. While Pitocin also aids in the progression of labor, there are many risks that need to be disclosed to expectant mothers before a doctor orders and before a nurse or medical staff administers the drug.
Pitocin is generally employed when labor is stalled, when labor induction is medically necessary to prevent harm to the mother or the baby, or when the mother is post-term (41 weeks or more). Approximately 13% of babies delivered in the United States are from induced labor, and when administered and monitored correctly, Pitocin can be a successful means of labor induction. However, there is some debate that Pitocin is being over-used in hospital labor and delivery rooms around the country. Pitocin is sometimes administered without the knowledge and informed consent of the patient or without full disclosure of risks to pregnant mothers and their babies.
Furthermore, there are situations where medical professionals are not correctly dosing Pitocin or are improperly monitoring the mother and baby once Pitocin has been administered. It is especially important to electronically monitor the fetal heart rate. A fetal heart rate monitor (FMH) will indicate to doctors, nurses and medical staff if the baby is suffering from fetal distress. Pitocin flow should be discontinued in the presence of fetal distress.
While Oxytocin and Pitocin work in similar ways, there are differences that may affect the mother and/or baby's health. Oxytocin is naturally released in spurts into the mother's body. Pitocin is administered intravenously so there is a steady flow of the drug into the bloodstream. This steady flow increases the intensity and frequency of contractions which can, in turn, decrease blood flow between the mother and baby. A decrease in blood flow reduces the amount of oxygen the baby receives which may result in fetal distress or hypoxia (oxygen deprivation).
Pitocin Risk Factors
Some of the risks associated with hypoxia in babies include:
- Fetal heart rate abnormalities
- Low APGAR scores
- Neonatal retinal hemorrhaging
- Brain damage
- Cerebral Palsy
Pitocin may prove to be a risk factor for the mother as well. Known complications include:
- Increased postpartum hemorrhaging
- Increased heart rate
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Uterine rupture
- Pelvic hematoma
- Nausea and vomiting
- Premature separation of placenta
Generally, when doctors, nurses and other medical professionals in the labor and delivery ward carefully monitor the mother and baby after the correct administration of Pitocin, they can avert these and other risks. Pitocin is a drug that has important medical uses. Doctors should discuss the risks and benefits of Pitocin with pregnant patients so that these patients can make informed medical decisions about their health and the health of their babies.
Contact a Kentucky Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you feel that Pitocin caused you or your baby harm during a labor and delivery in Kentucky, you can contact a Kentucky medical malpractice lawyer to help you determine if a doctor or other health care provider was negligent in administering Pitocin and/or monitoring the fetal heart rate. Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC is a Kentucky law office with its main office in Louisville, Kentucky.