Researchers developed oxytocin (Pitocin or “pit”) in the 1950s. Chemist Du Du Vigneaud won a Nobel Prize for his efforts. All these years later, pit is still the most widely-used labor induction drug in Florida. Since most labor and deliveries are scheduled inductions, pit is almost always part of the process. This drug has few side-effects and is quite effective. However, as outlined below, it has one major possible side-effect, and it might be too effective.
Doctors often schedule inductions for their own convenience, as well as for the convenience of the family. Unfortunately, the mother’s body may not be ready to give birth at a specific time, regardless of what the calendar says.
Nevertheless, many doctors issue standing orders for nurses to administer pit on an ongoing basis as soon as the mother gets settled in bed. These orders often include step-up provisions (i.e. if the mother does not progress in an hour or two, hospital staff increases the dose). Unbridled pit administration could set the scene for tragedy.
Pitocin and Labor and Delivery Injuries
As mentioned, many mothers are not biologically ready to give birth when they arrive for scheduled inductions. Whether they are ready or not, pit causes contractions, and these contractions could be intense.
This intensity often causes placental abruption. Pit-related contractions often put too much pressure on the mother’s myometrium (uterine muscle tissue). This pressure compresses the uterus and increases the chances of placental rupture. If that happens, the baby does not get the necessary nutrients and experiences severe distress.
Pitocin may cause similar issues even if the placenta remains connected to the uterus. Contractions compress the placenta like they compress the uterus. During contractions, the placenta does not give anything to the baby. And, the placenta must rest before it resumes its functions. If contractions come too hard and too close together, which is very possible with pitocin, basically the same thing could happen.
Doctors often respond to such emergencies by reducing the pit dose. Pitocin’s half-life is about three and a half minutes, so it is usually no longer effective after five or ten minutes. That sounds like a long time. But in a birth room, five minutes can literally be the difference between life and death. Oxygen-deprived babies usually develop permanent birth injuries after just five minutes of hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain).
Pitocin and Autism
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, researchers began to suspect that pitocin (oxytocin) may be related to autism. High pitocin doses may affect the brain’s oxytocin receptors. The resulting chemical imbalance could lead to problems like autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, and other developmental disabilities.
Recent evidence suggests that link may be present, especially if the baby had a pre-existing condition. Doctors should perform genetic screenings to ensure that no such predisposition exists, and it if does, they should use another labor-inducing drug.
Failure to do either of these things may violate the standard of care. This legal standard is very high in doctor-patient medical malpractice cases. So, damages in all pit-induced birth injury cases are often quite high.
Contact Tenacious Attorneys
A few moments of medical neglect could have lifelong effects on helpless newborns. For a free consultation with an experienced Brandon medical malpractice attorneys, contact Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).