When Should Pitocin Be Stopped?


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When a woman goes into labor, she trusts that the medical professionals who care for her will know what to do if something goes wrong. If labor hasn't started on its own or has slowed down, many doctors will recommend starting a drug called Pitocin to increase the strength and frequency of contractions. While this can be helpful for many moms and babies, it can be deadly if not dosed and monitored correctly.

How Often Is Pitocin Used In Pennsylvania Hospitals?

Pennsylvania follows the national average regarding labor inductions and augmentations, and administering Pitocin is the most common method of doing both. In Pennsylvania, 46 percent of labors are induced or augmented, compared to 45.5 percent across the rest of the country. Unfortunately, reliable data that shows the outcomes for these moms and babies compared to those who aren't given Pitocin is unavailable. Still, we do know that severe side effects tend to be caused by incorrect dosing or poor monitoring, making medical malpractice a real concern whenever Pitocin is determined to be the cause of a significant complication.

When Should Pitocin Be Avoided Or Stopped?

In general, Pitocin should be avoided whenever a vaginal delivery is not recommended, such as when the baby's head is too big to fit through its mother's pelvis, if the baby is in a poor birthing position, or in emergencies where a C-section would be more appropriate. However, in cases where it seems safe to proceed with a vaginal delivery, and Pitocin is started, it may become necessary to discontinue the Pitocin if contractions become too strong, too painful, or too close together.

In these cases, forceful contractions without enough rest to allow the baby to recover can result in fetal distress, decreased oxygen flow, brain damage, and even death. For the mother, excessively strong contractions have been known to cause the uterus to rupture, which can sometimes result in an emergency hysterectomy.

Due to the inherent risks associated with this drug, there are very strict medical guidelines that all doctors and hospitals are expected to follow when using Pitocin, as recommended by The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Specific guidelines can vary slightly from one hospital to another but typically dictate that Pitocin should be administered at a low dose with careful fetal monitoring and gradually increased until uterine contractions reach a normal labor pattern. If labor is still not progressing even after normal contraction activity has been reached, doctors should consider a C-section delivery rather than giving more Pitocin.

Should Pitocin Be Stopped If It's Working Well?

While Pitocin may be required in some instances to initiate labor or speed a slow labor, that doesn't mean that it will be required right up until the moment of delivery. Many doctors discontinue Pitocin in the later stages of labor if the mother's body can continue laboring naturally. While stopping Pitocin early may result in a slightly (only 3 percent) higher rate of C-section and a longer duration of labor, it significantly reduces the risk of dangerous complications from the Pitocin itself.

When Pitocin is discontinued early, there's been shown to be a 9 percent reduced risk of uterine hyperstimulation, which is when contractions become too frequent, too powerful, or too long, which can overstress the placenta and threaten the baby's health. It also reduces the rate of fetal heart rate problems, a strong indicator of fetal distress, by 13 percent.

If Pitocin Isn't Stopped And A Birth Injury Occurs, Is It Considered Malpractice?

In some cases, continuing Pitocin until delivery may be medically necessary, and birth injuries are possible even when medical providers do everything right. That said, if you were given Pitocin and experienced a complication that harmed you or your child, you may be entitled to compensation.

Why Choose Ross Feller Casey?

The legal team at Ross Feller Casey has what it takes to get the justice that you and your family deserve. Our attorneys have an unmatched record of success when it comes to catastrophic medical malpractice and birth injury lawsuits, including numerous multimillion-dollar recoveries for our clients.

We have a team of Ivy League-trained doctor-lawyers on staff, so we understand that birth-related injuries can be complex and can have life-long consequences for the entire family. There's no fee unless you win your case, so contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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