Task shifting in active management of the third stage of labor: a systematic review

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2018 Feb 6;18(1):47. doi: 10.1186/s12884-018-1677-5.


Background: Active management of the third stage of labor (AMTSL) describes interventions with the common goal to prevent postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). In low- and middle-income countries, implementation of AMTSL is hampered by shortage of skilled birth attendants and a high percentage of home deliveries. Task shifting of specific AMTSL components to unskilled birth attendants or self-administration could be a strategy to increase access to potentially life-saving interventions. This study was designed to evaluate the effect, acceptance and safety of task shifting of specific aspects of AMTSL to unskilled birth attendants.

Methods: A systematic search was conducted in five databases in September 2015 to identify intervention studies of AMTSL implemented by unskilled birth attendants or pregnant women themselves. Quality of studies was evaluated with an adapted Cochrane Collaboration assessment tool.

Results: Of 2469 studies screened, 21 were included. All studies assessed implementation of uterotonics (misoprostol tablets or oxytocin injections), administered by community health workers (CHWs), auxiliary midwives, traditional birth attendants (TBAs) or self-administration at antenatal (home) visits or delivery. Task shifting for none of the other AMTSL components was reported. Task shifting of provision of uterotonics reduced the risk of PPH (RR 0.16 to 1) compared to standard care (13 studies, n = 15.197). The correct dose and timing was reported for 83.4 to 99.8% (5 studies, n = 6083) and 63 to 100% (9 studies, n = 8378) women respectively. Uterotonics were recommended to others by 80 to 99.7% (7 studies, n = 6445); 80 to 99.4% (5 studies, n = 2677) would use the drug at next delivery. Willingness to pay for uterotonics varied from 54.6 to 100% (7 studies, n = 6090).

Conclusion: Task shifting of AMTSL has thus far been evaluated for administration of uterotonics (misoprostol tablets and oxytocin injected by CHWs and auxiliary midwives) and resulted in reduction of PPH, high rates of appropriate use and satisfaction among users. In order to increase AMTSL coverage in low-staffed health facilities, task shifting of uterine massage or postpartum tonus assessment to unskilled attendants or delivered women could be considered. Task shifting of controlled cord traction is currently not recommended.

Keywords: Active management of the third stage of labor; Community health workers; Low- and middle-income countries; Postpartum hemorrhage; Self-administration; Task shifting; Traditional birth attendants.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Community Health Workers
  • Delivery, Obstetric / nursing*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor Stage, Third*
  • Maternal Health Services*
  • Midwifery
  • Oxytocics / administration & dosage
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Young Adult


  • Oxytocics