In late pregnancy, a woman’s body prepares for labor by releasing the hormone oxytocin to begin contractions. The release of oxytocin, combined with a ripe or softened cervix, signals the start of labor. Sometimes, however, the cervix is ready but labor does not begin. If a mother’s water broke, she is more than two weeks past her due date, or labor isn’t progressing, her obstetrician may recommend inducing labor with the chemical Pitocin, a synthetic version of oxytocin. While Pitocin may be the best option in certain situations, improper use of Pitocin and related errors inducing labor have the potential to cause devastating injuries for the mother and baby. In fact, the risks of Pitocin-related mistakes include fetal distress and permanent birth injuries, such as infant brain damage and cerebral palsy.
If you or your child suffered unnecessary harm from errors with induced labor, being informed of your legal rights is invaluable during this critical time. Whether your doctor failed to fully inform you of the risks of induced labor, overdosed Pitocin, or failed to monitor you throughout labor and delivery, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Contact our Pitocin negligence lawyers in New Jersey to discuss your potential claim against medical providers for injuries that you or your child sustained during birth. Our team is available to provide you with a free consultation. Simply call 973-435-4551 today.
When Pitocin and Induced Labor may be Recommended
Induced labor is especially advised if the dangers of keeping the baby in the womb outweigh the dangers of inducing labor. Conditions that endanger the mother or fetus, like excess amniotic fluid, high blood pressure or preeclampsia, fetal growth slowdown, and other complications may require induction. Generally, doctors recommend inducing labor if the mother’s water breaks without contractions after 24 hours to avoid infection. However, if the pregnancy is healthy, the amniotic fluid is clear, the baby is positioned head down and not in distress, vaginal exams are kept to a minimum, and there is no fever or risk of infections, mothers can wait up to 48 hours for labor to start. Even with stalled labor in certain cases, the best option is to let the labor proceed at its own rhythm and pace if mother and fetus are doing fine. Typically, physicians recommend several other courses of action to induce labor prior to recommending or administering Pitocin, such as moving, changing position, and hydrating,
How Pitocin is Used to Induce Labor
If a medical professional recommends induction, Pitocin is administered through an IV and contractions are monitored. When contractions come every 2 to 3 minutes, Pitocin levels remain the same until delivery or may be adjusted if contractions are too weak or too strong. Sometimes, Pitocin will start natural labor and is not necessary after the initial dose prompts delivery. Often Pitocin-induced contractions are strong and fast, driving some women to an epidural for pain management. Yet, the process can be long, beginning with medications to soften the cervix, followed by the increasing doses of Pitocin, which can take hours if not days of contractions before delivery, exhausting the mother and fetus. In fact, because they are typically longer, 25% of induced labors ultimately result in C-sections. A contributing factor may be the fetal monitor belt and IV that restrict movement during labor and may make labor more difficult.
Risks of Pitocin during Birth
While potentially helpful, especially for a new mother, Pitocin is not without its risks. For example, the stronger, longer, and more frequent contractions do not allow the uterus to rest, and the fetus can become oxygen deprived when the blood flow is stemmed so often, causing distress and heart rate irregularity. Moreover, the unnaturally stronger contractions and steady flow of Pitocin can cause the mother’s uterus to hemorrhage.
Some of the most significant risks of Pitocin for the mother include:
- Overstimulated or ruptured uterus
- Increased likelihood of cesarean section
- Brain hemorrhage
- Excessive bleeding
The use of Pitocin also increases the risk of serious complications and birth injuries affecting the baby, such as:
- Fetal distress
- Fetal heart rate changes and bradycardia (slowed fetal heart rate)
- Retinal bleeding
- Low APGAR scores
- Brain damage
- Infant death
The benefits and risks must be weighed for each person, and the patient must be informed in order to decide what is best for herself and her baby, particularly since Pitocin can be overused. In fact, until several years ago, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discouraged induced labor until 41 weeks of pregnancy, unless the mother and fetus were in distress. By then, the health risks to mother and baby increase if the pregnancy is allowed to continue without medical intervention, even though a c-section is more likely. Now, the recommended timeframe for labor induction is 42 weeks and 6 days.
When Pitocin is not medically indicated, this medication may be used unnecessarily. Specifically, 40% of pregnant women are induced, despite the fact that Pitocin produces more powerful contractions and poses its own dangers.
Medical Negligence and Pitocin Errors
Doctors who induce labor for their own convenience, do not completely explain the risks to patients for decision-making purposes, or administer too high a dose of Pitocin, may cause serious injury to the infant or the mother during or after birth. Some doctors seduce women to electively induce for the convenience of choosing when to have the baby and trivialize the risks or the benefits of waiting for labor to begin or progress on its own. This can be particularly damaging, since the final weeks of pregnancy are so vital to the health of mother and child.
In the final weeks, the baby gains weight to maintain body temperature after birth, becomes stronger, receives infection-fighting antibodies from the mother, and develops the sucking reflex and stronger lungs. Additionally, the late pregnancy hormones help the mother to prepare for life after the baby is born. A miscalculated due date, combined with electively-induced labor, could mean that a newborn is near term rather than full term, potentially causing the baby to suffer from an unstable temperature, respiratory distress, hypoglycemia, apnea, bradycardia, feeding problems, or jaundice.
Beyond unnecessary use of Pitocin, mistakes with the amount of medication used for labor induction can also result in direct, catastrophic harm. Too much Pitocin is associated with a host of serious birth injuries affecting newborns and women giving birth. Further, the mother and fetus must be diligently monitored throughout the birthing process, with signs of possible complications quickly identified and alleviated to prevent significant injury. Failure to monitor fetal heart rate or the frequency of uterine contractions may constitute negligence. If any of these delivery errors occur, victims have the right to pursue just compensation and hold doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other healthcare providers accountable. Our experienced New Jersey birth injury attorneys have extensive experience assisting mothers and babies who suffer injuries due to medical negligence and we are here for you.
Injured by Negligence Inducing Labor?
Contact Fronzuto Law Group if you or your child suffered harm due to labor induction errors or pitocin misuse in New Jersey. You can reach us at (973)-435-4551 or fill out our convenient online form to request more information. Free Case Review
Injured by Negligence Inducing Labor?
Contact Fronzuto Law Group if you or your child suffered harm due to labor induction errors or pitocin misuse in New Jersey. You can reach us at (973)-435-4551 or fill out our convenient online form to request more information.Free Case Review