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How Dangerous Are Labor-Inducing Drugs?

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Ideally, a pregnant woman’s labor will begin when the baby is ready. Unfortunately, there are situations where the obstetrician will decide that it is necessary to induce labor before it begins naturally. This may be done because the health of the baby or the mother is at risk or the pregnancy has gone beyond 42 weeks.

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There are several different ways labor can be induced. One of the most common is by administering labor-inducing drugs, such as Pitocin. Pitocin is a synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin, which is the hormone a mother’s body produces in order to start contractions. Just like with any medication, there are risks involved in using labor-inducing drugs, which is why they should only be used during serious medical events. However, multiple studies have concluded that doctors are inducing labor for other reasons other than medical emergencies, placing both the baby and mother at serious risk.

Induced Labors

There can be serious side-effects from labor-inducing drugs, such as nausea and vomiting, which can leave the mother in a weakened state at a time when she needs all of her strength to deliver her baby. These drugs can also induce severe contractions, which can cause the baby’s heart rate to drop, as well as other serious medical emergencies. Yet, despite, these dangers, doctors use these drugs even when there is no medical reason not to let the labor and delivery proceed on its own time.

In one study, more than 40 percent of mothers said that their obstetrician tried to induce labor. Of those women who were induced, almost 45 percent said they were induced because the baby was at full term and it was “close to their due date.” Just under 20 percent said they were induced because their obstetricians were concerned that they were “overdue.”

Serious Risks of Labor-Inducing Drugs

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices has classified synthetic oxytocin as one of the top ten “high-alert” medications and it is the drug which is “most commonly associated with preventable adverse events during childbirth.” The risks to mothers when given this drug includes placental abruption, uterine rupture, infection, and postpartum hemorrhaging. The risk to babies includes asphyxia, brain damage, hypoxemia (low blood oxygen), and death. Studies have shown that in births where labor was induced using synthetic oxytocin, babies have three times the risk of oxygen deprivation than in natural births, and are five times more likely to suffer from brain damage.

Serious Birth Traumas Caused by Medical Negligence

There are several other common birth-related injuries that can end up having tragic consequences for families, such as shoulder dystocia. Sometimes, during a normal vaginal delivery, an infant’s shoulder will get stuck in the mother’s pelvis, requiring the delivering physician to utilize well-known procedures in guiding the infant safely out. If the doctor fails to use one of these procedures, injuries to an infant’s brachial plexus (series of nerves running from the neck down the arms) can occur, permanently paralyzing the infant’s arm.

Another severe birth trauma which can have devastating results is hypoxia, which is lack of oxygen. It is critical for medical personnel to monitor both the mother and baby throughout the entire labor and delivery to ensure that enough oxygen is reaching the baby. Oxygen deprivation can cause injury to an infants’ brain resulting in permanent, lifelong disabilities like cerebral palsy, paralysis, hearing loss, vision impairment, and cognitive deficiencies.

Virginia Birth Injury Lawyers

If your child suffered a birth injury caused by the negligence or carelessness of the physician and/or medical facility where the birth took place, contact a skilled Virginia birth injury attorney to find out what legal options you may have. Our VA medical malpractice firm has successfully represented many families who have had their lives forever changed because of medical personnel failures, and understand how overwhelming the legal process can feel.

Richard N. Shapiro
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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