What Are Pitocin and Cytotec?

Pitocin and Cytotec are drugs used to induce or hasten labor in women struggling with delivery. Both Pitocin and Cytotec are synthetic forms of oxytocin, which is a naturally occurring female hormone that is produced during labor in order to cause contractions. Due to the severe risks of birth trauma associated with strained labor, physicians will often use Pitocin and Cytotec to aid vaginal delivery and avoid C-section operations.

Did the misuse of Pitocin or Cytotec result in your child’s cerebral palsy (CP) or permanent disability? If you believe so, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. We encourage you to reach out to our Michigan cerebral palsy and birth injury lawyers with your questions and case inquiries today. Our attorneys, who are available to speak with you 24/7, will review your case for free and inform you of your legal options. To contact Michigan Cerebral Palsy Attorneys, call our offices toll-free at (888) 592-1857, click the Live Chat tab to the left, or complete our online contact form.

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When Do Physicians Use Pitocin and Cytotec?

Pitocin and Cytotec are only to be administered to initiate or speed up delivery in non-elective, emergency situations. Pitocin and Cytotec are commonly used in the following situations:

  • Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD): CPD, a condition in which the infant is too large to easily pass through the mother’s pelvis, generally results in delayed and difficult labor, thus necessitating the use of Pitocin or Cytotec.
  • Macrosomia: Macrosomic babies are larger than average for their gestational age. Like CPD, macrosomia presents a situation in which labor is problematic and delayed.
  • Strong contractions and hyperstimulation: Prolonged periods of contractions and pushing may result in head trauma to the baby, so physicians may use Pitocin or Cytotec to hasten delivery in response.

What Injuries Are Associated with Pitocin and Cytotec?

When used improperly, Pitocin and Cytotec may cause severe and often lifelong damage to both the mother and child. The following are examples of such injuries:

  • Fetal injuries:
    • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and birth asphyxia: An excessive dose of Pitocin results in contractions only two or three minutes apart, a time frame that doesn’t allow the placenta to replenish its oxygen supply. Oxygen to the baby’s brain is limited, potentially resulting in brain injury and cerebral palsy.
    • Fetal distress
    • Hypertentsion (increased blood pressure)
    • Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
    • Heart rate decelerations
    • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
    • Cardiac arrhythmia (disruptions in the heart’s normal rhythm)
    • Fetal academia (baby’s blood is very acidic at birth)
    • Brain damage and cerebral palsy
    • Neonatal seizures
    • Low APGAR scores
    • Retinal hemorrhages
    • Fetal hemorrhaging and fetal head trauma
    • Neonatal jaundice and hyperbilirubinemia
  • Maternal Injuries
    • Strong and prolonged uterine contractions
    • Uterine rupture: The excessive contractions associated with strained labor can cause the uterus to tear open.
    • Postpartum hemorrhage (severe blood loss after delivery)
    • Water intoxication (too much water in the system may cause an electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to potentially fatal brain disturbances)
    • Subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding between the brain and the thin tissue that covers it)
    • Cardiac arrhythmia like tachycardia, bradycardia, and premature ventricular contractions
    • Impaired uterine blood flow
    • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • Anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction)
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Pelvic hematoma (accumulation of blood in the soft tissues of the pelvis)

How Are Pitocin and Cytotec Issues Diagnosed and Treated?

Even though Pitocin and Cytotec are administered in response to strained labor and fetal distress, both drugs can actually trigger further fetal distress. For this reason, it is important for physicians to closely monitor the baby’s heart rate. Unfortunately, because Cytotec is administered by inserting a pill vaginally, it is impossible to discontinue its effects if the mother or baby have an adverse reaction to it. Therefore, if the baby shows signs of rapid heart rate, it is crucial to perform an immediate emergency C-section.

Video: Tachysystole, HIE, and Pitocin and Cytotec

In the following video, the registered labor and delivery nurse at Michigan Cerebral Palsy Attorneys explains how the misuse of Pitocin and Cytotec can cause tachysystole, a dangerous delivery complication in which a mother experiences too many contractions. Learn more about tachysystole, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), birth injuries, medical malpractice, and Pitocin and Cytotec in Andrea Shea’s video:

Legal Aid for Pitocin and Cytotec Injuries & Cerebral Palsy

The use of Pitocin and Cytotec require great caution. Physicians are to only use these labor induction drugs in emergency situations, and must do so with great care. While Pitocin and Cytotec have long been recognized as dangerous and thus used carefully, a number of cases of medical negligence still occur and result in lasting injury to both mothers and their children.

For reference, the following Pitocin and Cytotec incidents reflect negligence:

  • Failure to start Pitocin at relatively small doses and/or seize use once acceptable contractions are met
  • Failure to utilize proper fetal monitoring
  • Failure to order and perform an emergency C-section when the acceptable levels of uterine activity have been met at the lowest dose, but labor is not progressing

At Michigan Cerebral Palsy Attorneys, our birth injury legal experts have extensive knowledge of and experience with cases handling the misuse of Pitocin and Cytotec. To read about past verdicts and settlements achieved by our cerebral palsy lawyers related to the labor-induction drug injuries, please visit our corresponding Verdicts & Settlements section here.

If your labor was induced using Pitocin or Cytotec and your child has been diagnosed with permanent disabilities like cerebral palsy, we urge you to reach out to our birth injury experts for a free legal consultation. You may contact us by calling our cerebral palsy lawyers toll-free at (888) 592-1857 or filling  out this online contact form.

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  • Freeman RA, Nageotte M. “A protocol for the use of oxytocin.” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2007;197:445–446.
  • Clark SL, Rice Simpson K, Knox GE, Garite TJ. “Oxytocin: new perspectives on an old drug.” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009; 200 (1):35.e1 – 35e6.
  • Rice Simpson K, James DC. “Effects of oxytocin-induced uterine hyperstimulation during labor on fetal oxygen status and fetal heart rate patterns.” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008; 199 (1):34.e1-34.e5.
  • Cahill AG, Waterman BM, Stamilio DM, Odibo AO, Allsworth JF, Evanoff B, Macones GA. “Higher maximum doses of oxytocin are associated with an unacceptably high risk for uterine rupture in patients attempting vaginal birth after cesarean delivery.” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008; 199(1):32.e1-5.
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