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July 11, 2012 — When Martha Fountain went to a hospital at the University of Iowa, she was given Pitocin. This intravenous drug is routinely given to women in labor to increase the rate of contractions.

Usually, this speeds up labor. However, after Ms. Fountain was given Pitocin, her excessive contractions actually prolonged the delivery. After 28 hours of labor, she delivered a baby boy who had severe brain damage and permanent intellectual disability.

Ms. Fountain alleges that the Iowa hospital was negligent and careless when they gave her Pitocin because they never checked to see whether she actually needed the drug.

If Pitocin is given at the wrong time during labor, it can severely injure a mother and/or her child. Ms. Fountain alleges that the hospital failed to determine whether her naturally-occurring contractions were too frequent or too strong, and their actions caused her child’s retardation and head trauma.

The hospital denied any wrongdoing or malpractice in the Pitocin birth injury lawsuit., and instead asserted that the child’s injury was not caused by hospital staff or Pitocin. Even so, they agreed to settle with Ms. Fountain for $3.75 million.

Pitocin is a synthetic version of oxytocin, a substance that is normally produced by a woman’s body during labor. Bursts of oxytocin trigger contractions during labor, which increase in frequency and strength until a baby is delivered. Pitocin is administered intravenously, and instead of bursts of the drug, it is given in a steady stream.

Giving Pitocin at the proper time during labor can artificially increase the frequency of contractions, which speeds up delivery. However, giving Pitocin at the wrong time can cause severe injury to a mother and/or her unborn baby.

During contractions, less blood flows to the fetus, which results in less oxygen delivered to the baby’s brain. Although newborns can withstand some oxygen deprivation during this process, several hours can cause severe head trauma, brain damage, or permanent intellectual disability.


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