Letting labor begin naturally and spontaneously is known to generally be safer and healthier for both the mother and baby. Every year, roughly 20% of expecting mothers experience induced labor. Many of these women are not aware of the risks of induced labor. We are attorneys, not medical professionals, and you should always consult your health care providers about any treatment or procedure. However, from our experience, we are providing some information on key risks associated with labor induction.
Types of Induced Labor
There are several ways of inducing labor, depending on where the mother is in the birthing process. Each method has a different degree of risk. The first two types of induced labor are minorly invasive, while others rely on medications that can have unexpected side effects when not carefully monitored.
· Stripping the membrane: When a doctor separates the amniotic sac from the uterus.
· Breaking Water: When a doctor pierces the amniotic sac.
· Administering Prostaglandin: This hormone softens the cervix (also called ripening) and allows it to dilate.
· Administering Synthetic Oxytocin or Pitocin: The synthetic version of oxytocin (brand name "Pitocin") is often used to induce labor, and throughout the labor and delivery process to start or strengthen labor contractions. Using Pitocin interrupts the natural process of birth and does not allow for spontaneous labor.
Administration of Pitocin is perhaps the most dangerous kind of induced labor, despite its widespread use. Pitocin causes contractions that are more frequent and more powerful. This can cause serious injury.
When the health of both the mother and the baby are on the line, it is important to ask questions before inducing labor and fully understand the risks. For example, in some situations, a C-section or suction-assisted delivery might have a lower risk than administering hormones like oxytocin/Pitocin.
Risks for the Mother
Uterine Rupture: Mothers who had a prior C-section may experience uterine tearing as a result of intense contractions. If this happens, the baby is at risk of asphyxiation and may require an emergency C-Section. Additionally, if the uterus ruptures the mother will experience internal bleeding, which must be treated immediately.
Low Blood Pressure: Safe blood pressure is a constant concern in the delivery room. Induced delivery, especially the administering hormones, can cause blood pressure to drop. This can have long-lasting effects on both the mother and the baby. The baby may suffer from bradycardia (low heart-rate). If the mother’s blood pressure is not closely monitored, it could lead to life-threatening complications, especially for African American women.
Infection: In some cases, induced labor may cause either the mother or child to develop an infection. If not closely monitored and treated with antibiotics, these have the potential to be fatal.
Postpartum Hemorrhaging: Bleeding after childbirth is normal. However, the use of drug-induced delivery or errors in manually induced delivery could cause excessive bleeding in the weeks after childbirth. Left untreated, postpartum hemorrhaging can be deadly and is a significant contributor to the US’s maternal mortality rate.
Risks for the Baby
● Fetal death
● Neonatal seizures
● Permanent central nervous system or brain damage including cerebral palsy
● Bradycardia (dangerously depressed heart rate)
● Premature ventricular contractions/heart arrhythmias
● Neonatal jaundice
● Neonatal retinal hemorrhage
A Claim of Malpractice
Experiencing an injury during delivery or having your baby harmed due to medical negligence is heartbreaking and one of the most difficult things any family can experience. Many new parents struggle to cover medical bills and move forward after a birth injury. An attorney with experience handling birth injuries can help parents pursue justice in their time of need.
If you or your child suffered a severe injury during childbirth, we are here for you. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation with an experienced North Carolina birth injury attorneys from Daniel, Holoman & Associates LLP, don’t hesitate to send us an email or call (866) 380-2281.