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Extracted from Survival Guide to Midwifery, 2nd Edition (2012) Diane M. Fraser and Margaret A. Cooper, Oxford; Churchill Livingstone: 2012. Courtesy Elsevier

Oxytocin is a hormone produced by the hypothalamus. It plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, as well as during and after childbirth. It can be used as a drug to cause contractions of the uterus to start or accelerate labour, and to decrease or stop bleeding after delivery. It also plays an essential role in stimulation of lactation, and bonding between mother and baby.

In induction of labour, oxytocin may be used in conjunction with artificial rupture of membranes (ARM). However, it may produce side effects such as hyperstimulation of the uterus, which could cause fetal hypoxia and uterine rupture, and water retention. Prolonged use may contribute to uterine atony postpartum.

Oxytocin can be used alone or in combination with ergometrine in the third stage of labour as a uterotonic, to assist delivery of the placenta and products of conception, and/or to control the risk of postpartum haemorrhage.

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