Objective: To assess the impact of controlled cord traction on the incidence of postpartum haemorrhage and other characteristics of the third stage of labour in a high resource setting.
Design: Randomised controlled trial.
Setting: Five university hospital maternity units in France.
Participants: Women aged 18 or more with a singleton fetus at 35 or more weeks' gestation and planned vaginal delivery.
Interventions: Women were randomly assigned to management of the third stage of labour by controlled cord traction or standard placenta expulsion (awaiting spontaneous placental separation before facilitating expulsion). Women in both arms received prophylactic oxytocin just after birth.
Main outcome measure: Incidence of postpartum haemorrhage ≥ 500 mL as measured in a collector bag.
Results: The incidence of postpartum haemorrhage did not differ between the controlled cord traction arm (9.8%, 196/2005) and standard placenta expulsion arm (10.3%, 206/2008): relative risk 0.95 (95% confidence interval 0.79 to 1.15). The need for manual removal of the placenta was significantly less frequent in the controlled cord traction arm (4.2%, 85/2033) compared with the standard placenta expulsion arm (6.1%, 123/2024): relative risk 0.69, 0.53 to 0.90); as was third stage of labour of more than 15 minutes (4.5%, 91/2030 and 14.3%, 289/2020, respectively): relative risk 0.31, 0.25 to 0.39. Women in the controlled cord traction arm reported a significantly lower intensity of pain and discomfort during the third stage than those in the standard placenta expulsion arm. No uterine inversion occurred in either arm.
Conclusions: In a high resource setting, the use of controlled cord traction for the management of placenta expulsion had no significant effect on the incidence of postpartum haemorrhage and other markers of postpartum blood loss. Evidence to recommend routine controlled cord traction for the management of placenta expulsion to prevent postpartum haemorrhage is therefore lacking.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01044082.