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close this bookCare in Normal Birth (WHO, 1996, 60 p.)
View the document5.1 Background
View the document5.2 Prophylactic use of Oxytocics
View the document5.3 Controlled Cord Traction
View the document5.4 Active Versus Expectant Management of the Third Stage
View the document5.5 Timing of Cord Clamping
View the document5.6 Immediate Care of the Newborn
View the document5.7 Care of the Mother Immediately after Delivery of the Placenta

5.2 Prophylactic use of Oxytocics

Oxytocics may be given prophylactically at various moments during the third stage. Most often they are administered intramuscularly immediately with the delivery of the anterior shoulder, or after delivery of the infant. The drugs usually given, and investigated in trials, are oxytocin and ergot derivatives like ergometrine, or a combination of the two, syntometrine (Daley 1951, McGinty 1956, Friedman 1957, Newton et al 1961, Howard et al 1964, Hacker and Biggs 1979, Rooney et al 1985, Prendiville et al 1988, Thornton et al 1988, Begley 1990). Both oxytocin and ergot derivatives decrease the estimated postpartum blood loss, but the effect of ergot seems to be somewhat less than the effect of oxytocin. The effect on retention of the placenta is not yet quite clear, although there are some data suggesting that routine oxytocics may increase the risk of retained placenta.

Complications of oxytocics are nausea, vomiting, headache and hypertension postpartum. These complications occur more often with ergot derivatives. Moreover, rare but serious maternal morbidity has been associated with oxytocics, especially with ergometrine: cardiac arrest and intracerebral haemorrhage, myocardial infarction, postpartum eclampsia and pulmonary oedema. Because these events are so rare, randomized trials cannot give useful information about the extent to which they may be attributed to oxytocics. The available evidence suggests that oxytocin is a better choice than ergot derivatives. Moreover, in tropical countries oxytocin is more stable than ergometrine or methylergometrine (Hogerzeil et al 1992, 1994).

Because in many developing countries the administration of oral tablets would be much easier, and the tablets would be more stable than injections under tropical conditions, a randomized study was undertaken to investigate the influence of oral tablets of ergometrine immediately after birth. The outcome was disappointing: compared with a placebo the medication had little demonstrable effect on blood loss after childbirth (De Groot et al 1996).