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Was Your Baby Harmed by Pitocin or Cytotec?

Doctors see dozens of patients every day, and hospitals attempt to turn over rooms as quickly as possible for space and profit. One way they do this is by using labor-inducing drugs to speed up childbirth. But these medications can harm both mother and baby when not used properly.

If your childbirth was especially traumatic, and your baby suffered a birth injury, you may have experienced medical malpractice. The husband-and-wife trial attorneys at Grant Law Office have handled many birth injury claims in Atlanta, and we can speak with you about what to do next. For a free case evaluation, call (404) 995-3955 or (866) 249-5513 today.

Why Would Childbirth Be Induced?

Around one in four women will have their labor induced in the United States, but most experts and scientific studies agree that it’s best to let childbirth progress naturally. Sometimes, labor is induced by doctors for medical reasons (for example, for a pregnancy that lasts too long) but many times, it is done for someone else’s convenience. Inducing labor is called "active management" of childbirth as opposed to "expectant management," or waiting for labor to start spontaneously.

In any situation, the doctor must give the mother informed consent – let her know all of the birth options available to her, as well as their risks, and let her choose what she wants to do. There are dangers associated with labor-inducing medications, and doctors who fail to warn parents about them do more than a disservice, they commit malpractice.

Common Drugs in the Labor and Delivery Ward

Though these drugs have done tremendous good in easing mothers’ pain and assisting in childbirth, they are often overused in hospitals, and certain risks may be ignored by physicians in favor of a speedy delivery.

  • Analgesics: These drugs reduce pain without reducing all feeling or muscle control in the mother. Usually opioids are administered through an IV drip, but sometimes nitrous oxide is given to the mother through a mask. Though analgesics are low-risk, they are systemic, which means they will also enter the baby’s body. The baby may have trouble breathing, lower Apgar scores (quick tests performed on an infant one and five minutes after birth), and lowered activity. Analgesics that are injected tend to have more severe side effects.
  • Anesthesia: These drugs block all sensations, including pain. Anesthesia may be local (injected into the genital area) or regional (given in epidural IV drip, affecting the waist down). The mother may experience low blood pressure, nerve damage, or respiratory distress if the drug spreads to the breathing muscles. Under anesthesia, there is a greater chance the baby will need to be extracted via forceps or vacuum, which carry their own risks. Low blood pressure in the mother can also lead to hypoxia (low oxygen) and fetal acidosis (elevated amount of acid in the baby’s blood), which can cause brain damage.
  • Cytotec: Cytotec is a brand name for misoprostol, an artificial hormone given to mothers to "ripen" the cervix – to shed its lining and prepare for labor. Technically, Cytotec is only supposed to be used for treatment of stomach ulcers, but many doctors use it "off-label." If the mother is attempting a vaginal birth after she previously had a cesarean section for another child, doctors should not give any hormones to induce or speed up labor. They can cause uterine hyperstimulation, uterine rupture, and fetal distress.
  • Pitocin: Pitocin is a brand name for synthetic oxytocin, a hormone that occurs naturally during childbirth to cause contractions. However, every woman reacts to Pitocin differently, and because it is often delivered via continuous IV drip, it can cause too-frequent and powerful contractions, not allowing the baby time to rest. In the mother, these contractions can cause unstoppable bleeding.

Today, in the United States, Pitocin is used to start or accelerate most hospital births, but it should only be used when medically necessary (for example, if there isn’t much amniotic fluid left to cushion the baby, or the mother has a Group B strep infection and the use of Pitocin for a faster labor outweighs the other risks to the child).

Risks Associated with Pitocin and Cytotec

Every drug has its side effects, but the following are documented risks associated with labor-inducing medications:

  • Emergency C-section, if labor fails to progress after the drug has been started.
  • Longer recovery time for the mother, especially if a C-section is required.
  • More pain during labor, requiring more pain medication for the mother.
  • Tachysystole or uterine hyperstimulation, when contractions are too powerful and close together, giving the baby no time to rest.
  • Amniotic fluid embolism, when amniotic fluid enters the mother’s bloodstream, leading to internal bleeding or heart and lung collapse.
  • Placental abruption, when the placenta separates prematurely from the uterine wall, starving the baby of oxygen and causing dangerous bleeding in the mother.
  • Uterine rupture, when the wall of the uterine splits open, thrusting the baby into the abdominal cavity. This is a special risk if the mother has a previous C-section and is attempting a vaginal delivery.
  • Fetal distress, which can be caused by any number of factors but usually indicates the baby is not receiving enough oxygen. This can lead to permanent brain damage, such as cerebral palsy or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.
  • Hysterectomy may be necessary after a uterine rupture, placental abruption, or uncontrollable bleeding after birth.

In addition, there have been at least three studies examining the link between the use of Pitocin to induce or augment labor, and the child having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Though nothing conclusive has been proven, further research may indicate the steady, unnatural contractions caused by Pitocin is indeed a factor in children’s brain damage.

Did Your Doctor Fail to Warn You About Pitocin?

If your baby was born with a preventable birth injury, you may be able to hold the doctor, nurses, and your medical center responsible, depending on what happened. Contact Atlanta lawyers Wayne and Kimberly Grant. We are parents, and we understand the anguish you feel after any harm has come to your child. For a free consultation, call us at (404) 995-3955 or toll-free (866) 249-5513.

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Georgia Labor-Inducing Drug Injury Attorney Disclaimer: The legal information offered herein by Grant Law Office, is not formal legal advice, nor is it the formation of an attorney client relationship. In order for our firm to be considered your attorney there must be a signed agreement between the client and the firm. Any results set forth herein are based solely upon the circumstances of that particular case and offer no promise or guarantee on the outcome of any other case. Please contact a lawyer for a consultation.

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*Wayne Grant has been practicing law since 1979. Grant Law Office was founded in 2000.