|July 2012 · Vol. 24, No. 7
Routine use of oxytocin at birth:
just the right amount
to prevent postpartum hemorrhage
Administering the appropriate amount of oxytocin maximizes its benefits and minimizes its side effects. Regrettably, too little, too much or none at all is often administered at birth.
Editor in Chief
Postpartum hemorrhage is a common complication of birth—annually, it occurs in about 11% of natural, unmedicated childbirths and accounts for more than 50,000 maternal deaths worldwide. Administration of a uterotonic agent, such as oxytocin, at the time the anterior shoulder is delivered or after the birth of the baby reduces the risk of postpartum hemorrhage by approximately 66%.1 Administration of a uterotonic also reduces the risk of severe maternal hemorrhage (blood loss >1000 mL) and the risk of maternal transfusion by approximately 66% and 65%, respectively.1 It had been thought that early cord clamping and controlled cord traction also might help reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhage, but recent data indicate that administering a uterotonic is the key intervention and cord traction has little or no effect on reducing the risk of hemorrhage.2