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Off-label drug use can injure pregnant mothers and unborn babies

You trust your doctor. When you are pregnant, in labor or delivering your child, a doctor may very well hold your life in his or her hands. Fast thinking, knowledge and compassion are all critical to making the best decisions for the health and safety of both mother and child.

Unfortunately, some people who work in obstetrics find the process of labor to be inconvenient. While it is natural and normal for a woman, especially with a first child, to labor for a full day or longer, doctors can get tired of waiting. Maybe the doctor wants to leave for a vacation, has a tee time for golf or just wants to sleep. Any number of factors can lead to compromised decision-making, which can put a mother and her baby at risk of injury or even death.

Frustrated doctors may try to speed up labor

Most pregnant women know that doctors may administer a drug to help induce or speed up contractions if labor is not progressing properly. These drugs have been tested and approved for use in labor. Sometimes, doctors choose to use a more risky drug in the hope of speeding up labor and delivery: misoprostol, which is sold under the brand name Cytotec, and has not been deemed safe for use in pregnancy or labor. It's an ulcer drug, and using it off-label can be dangerous.

The Food and Drug Administration knows that misoprostol poses substantial risk to mothers and their babies. The drug is actually labeled to specifically warn doctors about off-label use in pregnant women. Still, doctors who worry more about their own convenience than the safety of their patients may administer this drug, with potentially fatal results.

Misoprostol can help with cervix dilation

Doctors administer misoprostol to pregnant women in labor in the hope that it will speed the process of effacing and dilating the cervix. In some cases, however, the drug can cause catastrophic uterine rupture. The mother will begin hemorrhaging and the unborn baby will go into distress, cut off from oxygen and life support from the mother. Immediate action, including emergency surgery, is necessary in these cases.

Off-label administration of misoprostol can kill an otherwise healthy mother or infant. In some cases, both mom and baby die because of the drug. Other times, uterine tearing is so bad that the mother will become permanently infertile or even require a radical, unplanned hysterectomy.

Doctors should not gamble with the life and well-being of mothers and babies for their own comfort. If you or a loved one suffered uterine tearing or other injuries after off-label administration of misoprostol, you should consider taking legal action, including filing a malpractice claim or a civil lawsuit against the doctor involved.

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