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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jul 20;(3):CD004452.

Oxytocin receptor antagonists for inhibiting preterm labour.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Amphia Hospital Breda, Langendijk 75, Breda, Netherlands, 4819 EV.

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Preterm birth, defined as birth before 37 completed weeks, is the single most important cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity in high-income countries. Oxytocin receptor antagonists have been proposed as effective tocolytic agents for women in preterm labour to postpone the birth, with fewer side-effects than other tocolytic agents.


To assess the effects on maternal, fetal and neonatal outcomes of tocolysis with oxytocin receptor antagonists for women with preterm labour compared with placebo or no intervention and compared with any other tocolytic agent.


We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (September 2004), CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2004), MEDLINE (1965 to June 2004), EMBASE (1988 to June 2004).


Randomised trials of oxytocin receptor antagonists for tocolysis in the management of women in labour between 20 and 36 weeks' gestation.


Two authors independently evaluated methodological quality and extracted trial data. We sought additional information from trial authors.


Six trials (1695 women) were included. Compared with placebo, atosiban did not reduce incidence of preterm birth or improve neonatal outcome. In one trial (583 infants), atosiban was associated with an increase in infant deaths at 12 months of age compared with placebo (relative risk (RR) 6.15; 95% confidence intervals (CI) 1.39 to 27.22). However, this trial randomised significantly more women to atosiban before 26 weeks' gestation. Use of atosiban resulted in lower infant birthweight (weighted mean difference -138.31 gm; 95% CI -248.76 to -27.86) and more maternal adverse drug reactions (RR 4.02; 95% CI 2.05 to 7.85, 2 trials, 613 women).Compared with betamimetics, atosiban increased the numbers of infants born under 1500 gm (RR 1.96; 95% CI 1.15 to 3.35, 2 trials, 575 infants). Atosiban was associated with fewer maternal drug reactions requiring treatment cessation (RR 0.04; 95% CI 0.02 to 0.11, number needed to treat 6; 95% CI 5 to 7, 4 trials, 1035 women).


This review failed to demonstrate the superiority of atosiban over betamimetics or placebo in terms of tocolytic efficacy or infant outcomes. The finding of an increase in infant deaths in one placebo controlled trial warrants caution. A recent Cochrane review suggests that calcium channel blockers (mainly nifedipine) are associated with better neonatal outcome and fewer maternal side-effects than betamimetics. However, a randomised comparison of nifedipine with placebo is not available. Further well-designed randomised controlled trials of tocolytic therapy are needed. Such trials should incorporate a placebo arm.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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