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Placental oxytocin ‘does not work’

Reports that umbilical injection of oxytocin prompts placental expulsion after birth, without the need for a surgeon or anaesthetic, have been dismissed by new research.

A report published in the online edition of The Lancet shows that it has no effect on the need for manual removal for women with retained placenta.

This condition is involved in 0.1-2.0% of deliveries, much more so in developed countries, with increased induction rates and facilities for the procedure.

Where facilities are not available, such as in rural areas of undeveloped countries, the condition has a 10% death rate.

The report says: “In settings in which there are long waits for theatre and in which women are tolerant of pain, there can be many attempts at placental delivery with prolonged cord traction, grasping of vaginal portions of the placenta, and uterine massage.

“In the UK, by contrast, operating theatres with regional anaesthesia are easily accessible and so the woman does not need to undergo the discomfort of repeated attempts at placental delivery.”

It concludes: “Findings from the Release Study have shown that umbilical vein oxytocin had no significant effect on the need for manual removal of the placenta or any other clinical outcome.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

The Lancet

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