California Birth Injury Attorneys Handling Improper Medication and Treatment
Representing families with birth injury claims in Los Angeles and throughout the state
Many drugs are administered to women during pregnancy and labor and delivery. No matter what the circumstances are, there are always risks associated with introducing drugs during childbirth. Medical staff must look closely at patient histories for allergies or other contraindications, and proper fetal monitoring is vital to make sure the infant shows no signs of distress. Failing to meet these standards of care, the results can be devastating, and babies can be left with birth injuries, such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, and other developmental disabilities.
Improper administration of Pitocin
Pitocin is a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, which promotes contraction of the uterus. Pitocin is administered to induce or speed up (augment) labor. Pitocin is the drug most commonly associated with preventable adverse events during childbirth.
When too much Pitocin is administered, it can cause contractions to occur too quickly which reduces the ability of the placenta to replenish its oxygen supply. When contractions occur too frequently or are too strong (called hyperstimulation or uterine tachysystole), the baby’s brain may not be receiving adequate oxygen, which can cause birth asphyxia, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy, seizures, and other birth injuries.
Hyperstimulation with Pitocin is dangerous because there are no accurate methods to measure the effects it has on the uterus. The effects of any given dose vary widely from excessive and severe contractions and fetal asphyxia to absolutely no recognizable effect on uterine contractility.
Due to its potentially dangerous nature, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices added Pitocin to its list of “high alert medications.”
Improper use of labor-hastening drugs can cause very serious and permanent injuries to mom and baby. It is essential that the medical team involved in labor and delivery be skilled in all obstetrical procedures and follow recommended guidelines and standards of care with regard to the administration of high-risk medications such as Pitocin.
Fetal complications associated with Pitocin / Oxytocin use include:
- Fetal distress
- Abnormal fetal heart rate/cardiac arrhythmia (disruptions in the heart’s normal rhythm)
- Asphyxia, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (oxygen deprivation), brain damage
- Fetal acidemia
- Neonatal seizures
- Low Apgar scores
- Retinal hemorrhages (abnormal bleeding of the blood vessels in the eye)
- Fetal head trauma, including brain hemorrhages
- Neonatal jaundice, hyperbilirubinemia
- Brain damage
- Fetal death
Complications to the mother may include:
- Uterine rupture. Pitocin is one of the most common causes of uterine rupture.
- Postpartum hemorrhage (greater than normal loss of blood after delivery)
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding between the brain and the thin tissue that covers it) which can cause brain damage
- Tachycardia, bradycardia, premature ventricular contractions and other cardiac arrhythmias
- Hypotension (low blood pressure), hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction)
Medication for treatment of gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and is one of the most common maternal medical conditions complicating pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your cells use sugar. It is vital that your doctor monitors and controls your blood sugar if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes to prevent complications during your pregnancy and delivery. If managed properly, gestational diabetes is unlikely to result in complications for the mother or infant.
Unfortunately, not every case is handled with the care needed, putting the thousands of pregnant women affected by this disease every year at risk of health complications, health issues, and birth injuries to their children.
Who is at risk for gestational diabetes?
Risk factors for gestational diabetes include advanced maternal age, obesity, the use of steroids, and polycystic ovary syndrome. Women of some ethnicity also have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Health complications that may affect the mother
- Preeclampsia. A dangerous pregnancy complication that causes symptoms like high blood pressure among others, and can threaten both the infant and the mother’s life.
- Increased risk of diabetes. Even though gestational diabetes typically goes away after your pregnancy is over, you are more likely to get it again in all future pregnancies. Not only that, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life greatly increases.
Health complications that affect the baby
- Preterm birth and respiratory distress syndrome. The mother’s increased blood sugar levels can increase the risk of going into early labor. If the baby is delivered prematurely, he or she can suffer from respiratory distress syndrome, a condition that makes it more difficult for them to breathe and will require assistance breathing until their lungs become strong enough to function on their own. Even if the baby is born on or close to the due date, the baby may still be at risk of suffering from respiratory distress syndrome if the mother has gestational diabetes.
- Excessive birth weight. The mother’s gestational diabetes creates excessive glucose in their bloodstream which can cross the placenta and trigger the fetus’ pancreas to create more insulin. If this happens, the fetus can grow to be too large – also known as macrosomia. (See Delivery Trauma below.)
- Increased risk of diabetes. As with the mother, the baby’s risk increases of developing type 2 diabetes increases, along with their risk of developing obesity.
- Hypoglycemia or low blood pressure. In extreme cases, hypoglycemia can cause the baby to suffer from seizures.
- Death. The baby has an increased risk of dying either before or shortly after they are born if the gestational diabetes is left untreated.
Choosing the right California birth injury lawyer for your needs
Improper use of medication during pregnancy, or labor and delivery can have devastating consequences. If your doctor failed to provide needed medication, excessively medicated or otherwise administered medication improperly, such conduct can rise to the level of medical malpractice.
Determining whether or not your baby’s injuries were caused by medical malpractice can be a challenge. At Heimberg Barr LLP, you partner with experienced and highly decorated Los Angeles birth injury attorneys who have dedicated their careers to protecting the rights of the injured. The firm puts its full power, experience and skills behind every case it takes, engaging in comprehensive trial preparation in case a just settlement cannot be reached. Senior Partners Steven Heimberg, M.D., J.D., and Marsha Barr-Fernandez, J.D., have decades of experience analyzing medical records, questioning expert witnesses, and assessing damages for past, present, and future losses. If you or your child sustained a catastrophic injury caused by improper usage of medication, you want the team at Heimberg Barr LLP on your side.
Birth injury lawyers in L.A. helping families move forward
Heimberg Barr LLP is an award-winning catastrophic injury and medical malpractice firm serving families throughout California. If you or your child sustained life-altering trauma due to the negligent use of medications, the time to call is now. To schedule a consultation with an experienced California birth injury lawyer, please call (213) 213-1500 or fill out this contact form.