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Clinicians’ Guide to the Use of Oxytocin for Labor Induction and Augmentation


  • Kathleen Rice Simpson PhD, RNC

Address correspondence to Kathleen Rice Simpson, PhD, RNC, 7140 Pershing Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63130. E-mail:


Oxytocin is commonly used in obstetrics for labor induction and augmentation. Careful assessment of the individual clinical situation based on indications and contraindications is essential to enhancing safe and effective use. Counseling the woman and her partner regarding potential risks and benefits before use is necessary to promote informed consent. At least 39 weeks of gestation is required for elective labor induction. Recent research has shown that deferring elective induction until cervical readiness has been achieved without the use of pharmacologic agents can be beneficial in reducing the risk of cesarean birth associated with elective induction. A conservative physiologic oxytocin protocol for labor induction and augmentation is recommended to minimize the risk of side effects. Although treatment of excessive uterine activity related to oxytocin has not been studied prospectively, several interventions such as maternal repositioning, an intravenous fluid bolus, and discontinuation of the oxytocin infusion are beneficial in returning uterine activity to normal, based on retrospective review of oxytocin-induced tachysystole. Perinatal quality measures from the National Quality Forum and the Joint Commission can be useful in monitoring care related to induction of labor. These include elective births before 39 weeks of pregnancy and cesarean births for low-risk, first-birth mothers.