Oxytocics in developing countries

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 1995 Sep;50(3):243-51. doi: 10.1016/0020-7292(95)02389-t.


Objectives: A prospective multicenter study of obstetric practices was conducted in three developing countries (Benin, Congo and Senegal) to analyze oxytocic use during labor. One of the objectives was to assess the possible negative effects of the treatment regimens instituted during the labor monitoring phase.

Methods: Four health districts participated in the study. All women who gave birth in one of the participating health facilities over a 6-month period in Benin and Congo, and over a 3-month period in Senegal, were recruited. The number of deliveries studied in each district varied from 457 to 1048. For each case a partogram was used to assess the progress of labor and the onset of dysfunctional labor. Information was collected on the risk factors for dysfunctional labor, stillbirths and resuscitation of the neonate.

Results: Each of the four collaborating centers used oxytocics preferentially to treat dysfunctional labor, but even in normal labor (i.e. with a normal partogram) oxytocics were used in 4.4-21.5% of cases. In normal labor the incidence of neonatal resuscitation was higher in cases with than in those without oxytocic use: the relative risks (R.R.) varied from 1.9 to 5.6; the odds ratios varied from 2.4 to 7.0, and both were statistically significant in the four settings. In addition the stillbirth rate was always higher, though not significantly, when oxytocics were used in normal labor (R.R. 1.2-2.2). When the data of the four centers were pooled, the global relative risk for stillbirths was 1.9, and the 95% confidence interval was 1.1-3.4. Logistic regression analysis was carried out for five confounding factors (primiparity, a previous complicated delivery, presence of meconium, ruptured membranes and educational level) to adjust the odds ratio for the risk of neonatal resuscitation when oxytocics were used in normal labor. Except in the case of Abomey in Benin, where the variable 'presence of meconium' decreased the odds ratio from 6.4 to 3.4, the adjusted odds ratios remained similar to their non-adjusted values. In cases of non-dysfunctional labor, nurses and midwives used oxytocics more often than lesser trained health personnel (R.R. 4.0 [3.2-5.1]).

Conclusion: Our results show that an obstetric treatment which is safe when used in certain well-defined indications, may have significant negative effects when used in situations where the same technical quality of care cannot be guaranteed.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries*
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric*
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / therapy
  • Oxytocics*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Health Care


  • Oxytocics