Failure to Properly Use and Monitor Pitocin

Pitocin or syntocinon are the names of synthetic versions of a neuromodulatory hormone called oxytocin produced by pituitary gland. Oxytocin is often called the “love hormone.” Naturally, the hormone facilitates various social behaviors, such as mother/baby bonding, feelings of calm and contentedness with one’s mate, sexual arousal, and increased wound healing abilities. Oxytocin is responsible for the contractions during childbirth, let down and ejection of milk in the mammary glands, and decreased post-partum bleeding. A couple of oxytocin functions under investigation are its ability to act as antioxidant in the bloodstream, and a possible connection to autism when it is lacking.

Pitocin is used medically to induce labor, or to augment contractions in stalled labors. Pitocin labor augmentation is only thought to be needed in approximately 3% of labors, but it is often administered to women without their knowledge or consent. If women were told the possible complications to themselves and their baby and asked if they wanted the drug, the answer would likely be no. Possible pitocin complications to birthing mothers:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • C section (risk of this doubles with inductions)
  • Anaphylaxis (allergic reaction to pitocin)
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding on the brain)
  • Pelvic hematoma
  • Impaired uterine blood flow
  • Tetanic contractions (if given too much pitocin and not properly monitored)
  • Uterine rupture
  • Afibrinogenemia leading to hemorrhage and possible death
  • Post-partum hemorrhage

Possible pitocin complications to baby:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Brain damage
  • Retinal hemorrhage
  • Low 5 minute APGAR score
  • Neonatal jaundice
  • Seizures
  • Death

Some OB/GYNs will use pitocin in an unethical manner- to initiate unnecessary C sections. Some doctors rush the birth process to fit their own schedules. C sections make for fast deliveries and a lot more money for the doctor. Giving a woman too much pitocin will make for contractions that are too strong, fetal distress will ensue, facilitating the need for an emergency C section. 

Contractions that happen naturally do not harm the baby. Pitocin contractions, however, can be up to twice as strong as natural contractions. Also, pitocin contractions are longer, and have shorter rests between. This leads to decreased blood flow, and hypoxia, or possible asphyxia to the baby. Lack of oxygen for the baby for even short periods can lead to many serious problems including brain damage and death. 

If you believe an OB/GYN facilitated an unnecessary C section on you or a loved one with the improper use of pitocin, that resulted in harm to either the mother or child, you may be eligible for damages. Call the Sweeney Law Firm and let us review the facts to establish whether you have an OB/GYN medical malpractice case. If we decide to take your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don’t get paid unless there is a settlement or recovery of funds for you.