July 11, 2012 — The State of Iowa will pay $3.75 million to settle a Pitocin birth injury lawsuit. When Martha Fountain went to the University of Iowa to deliver her full-term baby boy, she was given Pitocin — a drug that is routinely administered to pregnant women to speed up contractions.
Unfortunately, Ms. Fountain alleges that the hospital did not check to see whether she actually needed the drug. Her excessive contractions prolonged the delivery to 28 hours. When she eventually delivered her child, he was born with severe head trauma and permanent brain damage.
In the Pitocin birth injury lawsuit, Ms. Fountain alleges that the hospital was negligent or careless in administering the drug because they failed to determine whether her natural contractions were too frequent or too strong. She claims that her child’s severe retardation and head trauma was due to the improper actions of the hospital staff.
The University of Iowa hospital denied any malpractice in the lawsuit. The hospital claims that the child’s brain injury and birth complications were caused by other factors that were not related to Pitocin. However, they agreed to settle with Ms. Fountain for $3.75 million.
Many critics of Pitocin allege that the drug is over-used in childbearing medicine. The drug is a synthetic version of oxytocin, a hormone that a woman’s body naturally produces to stimulate contractions. When Pitocin is given intravenously, it delivers a steady stream of oxytocin, instead of the bursts of oxytocin that occur during normal delivery.
When Pitocin induces contractions, this can decrease blood flow to the uterus. Less blood equals less oxygen delivered to the baby. Although babies can withstand some oxygen deprivation during the birthing process, several hours without enough oxygen can cause severe brain damage, or intellectual disability. Administering Pitocin at an improper time during labor can increase the risk of severe, life-threatening birth injuries to both mother and child.