Posted November 22, 2012 in BIRTHING

Cytotec: The Hidden Dangers All Pregnant Mothers Should Know


Often used off-label to induce labor, Cytotec (misoprostol) has been reported to cause serious health problems in pregnant women, from birth defects to uterine rupture, early miscarriage and maternal or fetal death.

Given the multiple risks this medicine involves for both the mother and the baby, it is classified as a category X drug, meaning that it’s completely contraindicated to pregnant women. Drugs in this category are those whose benefits are clearly outweighed by side effects and this is the main reason Cytotec should be avoided by women who are pregnant.

But what is this drug used for anyway? Which are the conditions it treats and why is it still being used in expecting mothers, despite all the studies proving the adverse reactions and complications it triggers?

Cytotec is used for preventing and treating duodenal and gastric ulcers, digestive issues caused by NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), symptoms induced by the peptic ulcer disease as well as for decreasing stomach acidity and increasing blood flow to the stomach.

The drug is FDA approved for these health issues, but this does not mean it is automatically safe in pregnant women as well. What makes it so convenient is its accessible price: unlike other labor-inducing drugs, this one costs less than 1 dollar per dose so it is obviously the least expensive solution for inducing women.

This is very convenient for obstetricians as well, as it allows them to schedule childbirth within their working hours so there is no need for doctors to get to the hospital in the middle of the night, if an expectant mother experiences labor contractions and she is about to deliver. Doctors prefer the use of Cytotec for induction as it can rapidly work for softening and cervical dilation therefore reducing the length of labor and birth.

Neglected dangers of Cytotec

The drug is manufactured in 100-mcg tablets and it is intended for oral use, its main indications being the already mentioned ones: digestive issues, ulcers and stomach problems caused by NSAIDs.

Potential side effects of Cytotec are clearly mentioned on the drug’s label: mild abdominal and stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, cramps, vaginal spotting or bleeding, gas, heartburn, indigestion, vomiting and nausea. In case of overdose, convulsions, seizures, intense abdominal pain and cramps, breathing difficulties, drowsiness and increased heart rate, low blood pressure, tremor and fever can occur.

While these side effects alone are serious enough for one to avoid using Cytotec for other purposes than those indicated on the medicine’s label, there are numerous doctors who neglect the dangers of Cytotec and continue using it only because it is extremely inexpensive, convenient, and can shorten labor. However the product’s label mentions clearly that pregnant women should not be administered this drug as it can induce labor or cause a miscarriage!

What do obstetricians use Cytotec for? Exactly for inducing labor! And they do this without even knowing which the right dosage size is, what is the most appropriate route of administration or how often should it be administered. And they do it when there are several studies reporting serious complications caused by this drug: overstimulation of the uterus in labor, uterine rupturing, placental abruption, too frequent uterine contractions leading to inadequate oxygenation of the baby causing fetal distress.

Premature birth, miscarriage, uterine bleeding, birth defects in arms, legs, skull and face, infertility, death of the mother or baby are other dangers of Cytotec completely neglected by obstetricians who continue using this drug in pregnancy and for inducing labor.

Charlotte Sanchez CPM is a Certified Professional Midwife and
Child birth educator of over 20yrs.