Routine oxytocin in the third stage of labour: a placebo controlled randomised trial

Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1997 Jul;104(7):781-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.1997.tb12020.x.


Objective: To compare intravenous oxytocin administration (Partocon 10 IU) with saline solution in the management of postpartum haemorrhage in the third stage of labour.

Design: A double-blind, randomised controlled trial involving 1000 parturients with singleton fetuses in cephalic presentation and undergoing vaginal delivery, randomly allocated to treatment with oxytocin (n = 513) or 0.9% saline solution (n = 487).

Setting: Labour ward at a central county hospital.

Main outcome measures: Mean blood loss (total, and before and after placenta delivery); frequencies of blood loss > 800 mL, need of additional oxytocic treatment, postpartum haemoglobin < 10 g/dL; and duration of postpartum hospitalisation.

Results: As compared with saline solution, oxytocin administration was associated with significant reduction in mean total blood loss (407 versus 527 mL), and in frequencies of postpartum haemorrhage > 800 mL (8.8% versus 5.2%), additional treatment with metylergometrine (7.8% versus 13.8%), and postpartum Hb < 10 g/dL (9.7% versus 15.2%), and a nonsignificant increase in the frequency of manual placenta removal (3.5% versus 2.3%). There was no group difference in the mean duration of postpartum hospitalisation (4.6 versus 4.5 days, respectively).

Conclusions: Administration of intravenous oxytocin in the third stage of labour is associated with an approximately 22% reduction in mean blood loss, and approximately 40% reductions in frequencies of postpartum haemorrhage (> 500 mL or > 800 mL) and of postpartum haemoglobin < 10 g/dL. Identification of risk groups for oxytocin treatment does not seem worthwhile. Oxytocin is a cheap atoxic drug and should be given routinely after vaginal delivery.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Labor Stage, Third*
  • Length of Stay
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage*
  • Placenta, Retained / etiology
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage / blood
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Recurrence
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hemoglobins
  • Oxytocin