Labor and delivery can be a long, painful and dangerous process for both an expectant mother and her unborn child. Medical professionals need to know when to intervene to prevent a tragic outcome, and they also need to understand when to let the body handle this natural process on its own.
Whether due to a mother’s request or a doctor’s schedule, sometimes physicians seek to speed up the labor process. There are acceptable and approved ways of doing this, and then there are dangerous methods. Some doctors will use a common drug in a manner contrary to its safety labeling.
Although it often doesn’t hurt the patient, when it does, the results can be catastrophic.
Doctors should not administer misoprostol during labor
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluates the safety of medications for using the general public and also specific subsets of the population. Pregnant women are some of the most vulnerable people, and so there are many medications that they cannot take because it puts them or their baby at risk.
Cytotec or misoprostol is a drug that doctors typically prescribed for ulcers. The FDA approved the medication for use in adults, but it also labels the drug with a warning that it is not for use in pregnant women. Specifically, the FDA warns of the possibility of catastrophic side effects, including hemorrhaging and uterine rupture.
In a limited number of cases, the off-label use of this drug to speed up labor will result in a mother bleeding severely or her uterus tearing. Both the mother and child could be at risk of dying in that situation, and the mother could permanently lose her ability to carry children because of a reaction to the drug.
Doctors should use tried-and-true interventions, especially during labor
Hubris contributes to a doctor’s decision to ignore the FDA label and administer a drug during pregnancy. They have done it before with no negative consequence, so they assume nothing bad will happen despite the warning. Unfortunately, families pay the price when doctors don’t follow best practices and use medications in safe and approved manners.
Taking action after a birth injury caused by the wrong interventions can compensate a family for the lasting impact of a doctor’s medical mistakes.