When a woman gets the wrong dose or an overdose of a drug, the most likely candidate is Pitocin. 
 
What is Pitocin and why is it used?
 
Pitocin, which is also called oxytocin, is a uterus stimulant given to contract the uterus or to increase the frequency and intensity of contractions.  It is often used to induce labor or to get labor restarted after labor has stalled.  
 
Pitocin is the drug most commonly used to induce labor.
 
Isn't Pitocin safe?
  
When used correctly, Pitocin is safe; however, in many hospitals the dose of Pitocin is not standardized and the amount given is left to the discretion of the doctor or midwife.
  
Can Pitocin affect an unborn child?
 
When too much Pitocin is given too fast, it can speed up contractions to the point that the fetus does not get enough oxygen.  In some cases, this can lead to fetal brain damage or death.  In some cases, Pitocin has been linked to a slowing of the fetal heartbeat (fetal bradycardia).
Does Pitocin affect the mother?
 
Some women may be hypersensitive to Pitocin.  Women who are given Pitocin should be monitored for reactions.
 
Pitocin can cause both hypotension (low blood pressure) and hypertension (high blood pressure), so blood pressure should be checked frequently. 
 
Pitocin is an antidiuretic and may cause water intoxication. Signs of water intoxication include reduced urine output, confusion, nausea, convulsions an coma.
 
When the drug is given for four hours or more, there is an increased risk of uterine rupture.  There is also an increased risk of uterine rupture in women who have previously delivered children by c-sections.
 
Other side-effects include nausea, vomiting, and cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats).
 
What else should I know about Pitocin?
 
Many malpractice cases against obstetricians allege misuse or overuse of Pitocin.  A Pennsylvania study found looked at errors in labor and delivery found that Pitocin was the drug most often involved in cases where a woman is given the wrong dose or overdose of a drug.  Pitocin is on the high-alert list of drugs because of serious overdose errors and potential mix-ups with magnesium sulfate.
 
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, labor is induced in more than 20 percent of births and the number of induced-births is increasing. 

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.