Pitocin is a synthetic version of oxytocin, a hormone naturally produced by a woman’s body during childbirth. Pitocin is used to induce labor and stimulate stronger, faster contractions.
Unfortunately, in some cases, Pitocin dramatically extends the duration of labor and decreases oxygen delivered to the baby. This can cause brain damage and permanent intellectual disability.
Woman who filed Pitocin birth injury lawsuit awarded $3.75 million settlement from State of Iowa. Five years ago, Martha Fountain was given Pitocin during her delivery at the University of Iowa. She alleges that the hospital failed to check whether she actually needed the drug to deliver. After 28 hours of labor with excessive contractions, she gave birth to a baby boy, but he had severe brain damage, head trauma, and permanent intellectual disability.
Pitocin is synthetic oxytocin, a hormone that stimulates uterine contractions. Pitocin is used to start/induce labor or increase the frequency and strength of contractions. In most cases, Pitocin can speed up delivery.
Pitocin-induced contractions are not the same as natural contractions. The body normally produces oxytocin in short bursts. This produces small contractions that help position the fetus in the correct position for delivery. As the bursts of oxytocin increase in strength, so do the contractions. The contractions gradually get stronger and more intense, until the baby is delivered.
Unlike natural bursts of oxytocin, Pitocin is administered intravenously, in a steady drip. A physician must carefully adjust the dosage to ensure the contractions are not too weak or too strong. Instead of contractions gradually building intensity, Pitocin induces long, powerful contractions.
In many hospitals, Pitocin is routinely administered during childbirth.
What is the problem with Pitocin?
In most cases, Pitocin increases the speed of delivery. Many people benefit from the use of this drug during childbirth. In some cases, however, Pitocin dramatically extends the duration of labor and causes severe injury to a mother and/or a baby.
If Pitocin is given at the wrong time during labor, or at the wrong dosage, it can prematurely over-stimulate the uterus. This can cause prolonged, painful contractions with very little recovery time between contractions, without delivering the baby. This can put enormous stress on the mother and her baby, or lead to life-threatening complications.
Mothers are at risk of post-birth hemorrhage, cervical laceration, uterine rupture, premature separation of the placenta, and other side effects. The biggest risk to the baby is oxygen deprivation, leading to asphyxiation, hypoxia, and brain damage. During a contraction, less oxygen is delivered to the baby. If the contractions are prolonged and the baby is not delivered, severe oxygen deprivation can cause brain damage.
Due to the risk of complications, Pitocin is contraindicated in the following scenarios:
- When normal uterine contractions fail to reach satisfactory progress
- Fetal distress, when delivery is not imminent
- Cephalopelvic disproportion (fetal head circumference less than the pelvic opening)
- Fetus is positioned abnormally
- Mother has undergone previous Caesarian section
- The baby is being delivered prematurely
- Other unusual or high-risk births
Pitocin Birth Injury
Severe, life-threatening Pitocin birth injuries can occur when Pitocin is administered improperly, dosages are not adjusted, or physicians fail to attend to a fetus in distress.
One common problem is that the dosage of Pitocin is not adjusted properly. Because every woman’s body responds to the drug differently, every woman must be monitored to ensure that she is not given too much or too little of the drug. Mistakes can cause serious harm to mother and/or her baby.
Pitocin birth injuries may include, but are not limited to the following:
- Uterine rupture
- Cervical laceration
- Fetal distress
- Fetal asphyxiation, hypoxia
- Brain damage
- Decreased heart rate
- Cerebral palsy
- Stillbirth, fetal death
- Post-birth hemorrhage in the mother