Information on Oxytocin

Provided by our Cerebral Palsy Lawyer, Ryan A. Krebs

Ryan Krebs, a cerebral palsy lawyer with the birth trauma law firm of Cappolino Dodd Krebs LLP discusses the use of certain drugs to induce labor and how those drugs could have led to infant brain damage. This video focuses on the affect that oxytocin can have on both the mothers and babies. Often, doctors will use oxytocin to help induce labor and decrease the time the mother will spend in the hospital.

To learn more about the affects of oxytocin, contact a birth injury attorney at our law firm today.

Video Transcription

One of the most common things we see is now days, mothers are induced or augmented with a drug called oxytocin. There seems to be more of an impetus to get mothers out of the hospital now. The times that mothers are in the hospital to deliver a baby are shorter and shorter. This is largely for money reasons. Insurance companies want to get moms out of the hospital.

One way of doing that is to give moms this drug called oxytocin. You’ll also hear it referred to as pitocin.

Oxytocin is naturally made by mom. When she goes into labor, she will make oxytocin from a part of her brain and it is secreted into her blood system where it goes down to her uterus in pulses, is in a cycle, it has a rhythm. There’s a work and a rest rhythm that goes with it that is natural.

What obstetricians and nurses at hospitals do when they augment labor is to give pitocin continuously, not in a rhythmic pattern, not naturally, not with pulses but to give it continuously. And this ends up often times causing a condition that used to be known as hyper stimulation. Now obstetricians have given it a new name, they call it tachysystole.

Fancy terms. All they mean is that when you give oxytocin continuously it will cause the uterine to contract too often, too hard, and-or the uterus never goes down to a complete rest—or nearly complete rest—between contractions so that the uterus is essentially working overtime. The uterus is not having a contraction followed by rest followed by a contraction followed by rest. What you end up doing is moving the contractions too close together, stacking them on top of each other. You have the contractions being too hard, the uterus is just contracting too hard. Or, you have the uterus, between contractions, not resting enough. and what this does is it doesn’t give the placenta time to get enough oxygen, it doesn’t allow the baby’s brain time to re-establish blood flow between contractions.

This use of oxytocin will manifest, or show up, on the monitor, on the lower tracing where you see mom’s uterine contractions and you can see this pattern. The upper tracing, you’ll see the baby’s heart rate and what you’ll see happen is various patterns where the baby, through its heart rate and heart rate pattern is basically saying is “I don’t like this. This is too much. Mom’s working too hard. This uterus around me is squeezing me and the placenta too much. I’m not getting enough oxygen.”

The most common thing we see is those who are supposed to be monitoring the monitor—in other words, those who are supposed to be looking at that strip, both the baby’s heart rate pattern on top and mom’s uterine contraction pattern on bottom—is they are not paying attention. They are not minding the store. And, they’re not looking at those patterns in relationship to how the labor is progressing. In other words, they look at those strips as snapshots rather than a continuous movie that uses what happened before to inform the doctors and nurses what’s going on now and what to expect down the road.

What we find is the doctors and nurses are not monitoring the monitor. The monitor is no good unless somebody’s looking at it like they should. They’re not monitoring the monitor, the baby is signaling, “Hey, I don’t like it in here. These contractions are too much.” And the simplest thing to do is simply turn down the pitocin.

But, if that doesn’t work and giving oxygen and fluids doesn’t work, there are other things that can be done such as an emergency C-section. But, doctors are loathe to do emergency C-sections these days, or they’re reluctant to do emergency C-sections because, again, it comes down to money. They don’t want to incur the cost of having to do an operative delivery.

And, the problem is they wait too late, they wait too long until things have gotten to the point that the baby has not gotten enough oxygen, has not gotten enough blood flow to its brain, the most vital and sensitive organ to all of this, and by the time they decide to do a C-section, it’s too late, The brain has already been injured. So that by the time they deliver the baby the damage has been done.

Ryan Krebs