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Possible Complications from Oxytocin Use

Victor Lewin - Thursday, March 27, 2014

In a study with implications for pregnant women in Nova Scotia, researchers found that administering a drug to induce labour could cause complications for both the mother and the child. A group reviewed 74 cases over an 11-year time span and observed that the use of oxytocin could lead to difficulties in detecting abnormal fetal heart beats, unnecessary inductions and a lack of staff to watch over the mother. The related risks could lead to serious injuries or even death, and later to potential medical malpractice lawsuits.

The Canadian Medical Protective Association reported that the cases represent a tiny percentage of tens of thousands of women who are induced across the nation annually. Another serious concern is that the number of inductions is increasing. From 2012 to 2013, the induction rate was one in four in hospital births. In 1980, the rate was less than one in eight. Part of the reason for the number of increased inductions is due to advanced maternal age or other health considerations. However, some mothers and even physicians are asking for inductions for the sake of convenience.

A director of medicine at a Regina hospital believes that society needs to change its perception of pregnancy and let it take its natural course. While oxytocin is probably the most commonly used drug to induce labour, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices reports that it can cause the uterus to become overstimulated or hemorrhaging. Infants might suffer an abnormally slow heart rate or a lack of oxygen, which could lead to further serious complications or even death.

Sometimes, mothers or infants can react negatively to a drug given during labour and delivery, especially if it is used incorrectly or too much of the drug is used. A personal injury lawyer might be able to file a lawsuit on the behalf of mothers if they or their children are injured due to medical errors during delivery.

Source: Canada.com, "Doctors' malpractice insurer warns of risks of speeding up labour", Sharon Kirkey, March 23, 2014

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