Few childbearing women realize the inherent risks of oxytocic drugs. In addition to the more benign effects of uterine stimulants, the American manufacturer of Pitocin points out in its package insert that oxytocin can cause: a) maternal hypertensive episodes, b) cardiac arrhythmias, c) uterine spasm, d) titanic contraction, e) uterine rupture, f) subarachnoid hemorrhage, g) water intoxication, h) convulsions, I) coma, j) pelvic hemotoma, k) postpartum hemorrhage, l) afibrinogenemia, and m) fetal death.
Uterine stimulants that foreshorten the oxygen-replenishing intervals between contractions by making the contractions too long, too strong, or too close together increase the likelihood that fetal brain cells will die. The situation is somewhat analogous to holding an infant under the surface of the water, allowing the infant to come to the surface to gasp for air but not to breathe.
All these effects increase the possibility of neurologic insult to the fetus. No one really knows how often these adverse effects occur because no law or regulation in any country requires the doctor to report an adverse drug reaction to the country's drug regulating agency, even if the patient dies.
-Doris Haire, "Update on Obstetric Drugs and Procedures: Their Effects on Maternal and Infant Outcome," Birth Gazette 13:1, 1996.
Reprinted from Midwifery Today E-News (Vol 1 Issue 50, Dec 10, 1999)
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