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Ergonovine

What works?

Learn more about the effects of these drugs. The most reliable research is summed up for you in our featured article.

By mouth

Treats and prevents bleeding from your uterus after childbirth or abortion. This medicine is an ergot alkaloid… Read more

By injection

Treats and prevents bleeding from the uterus after childbirth or abortion. This medicine is an ergot alkaloid… Read more

Drug classes About this
Diagnostic Agent, Cardiac Function, Renal-Urologic Agent, Uterine Stimulant

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Active management of third stage of labour with ergot alkaloid drugs (e.g. ergometrine)

The third stage of labour is the period from birth of the baby to the expulsion of the placenta and membranes. As the placenta separates, there is inevitably some blood loss from the placental site until the muscles of the uterus clamp the blood vessels. Fit, healthy women cope with this normal blood loss without problems, but where poor nutrition, poor sanitation and limited or no access to clinical care are complications of pregnancy, severe morbidity and mortality can result from excessive blood loss at birth. This is very common in low‐ and middle‐income countries. Active intervention, called 'active management of third stage', is recommended for the third stage of labour to reduce excess blood loss. Active intervention incorporates (1) the administration of a uterotonic drug, given either just before or just after the baby is born to help the muscles of the uterus contract; (2) early cord clamping; and (3) the use of controlled cord traction to deliver the placenta. This review of studies looked at the use of one group of uterotonic drugs called ergot alkaloids, e.g. ergometrine, as part of this active management. The review found six trials involving 3941 women receiving ergometrine by mouth (orally), into the muscle (intramuscularly (IM)) or into the vein (intravenously (IV)). Evidence indicates that the oral route was not very effective. The IV route, although it reduced blood loss, was associated with the adverse effects of raised blood pressure and pain due to uterine contraction, and so is unlikely to be used. The IM route showed benefit in terms of reducing blood loss, and although there were adverse effects similar to those associated with the IV route, these were less common. So, while the ergot alkaloid group of drugs given IM is an option, there are other drugs, namely oxytocin, syntometrine and prostaglandins (which are assessed in other Cochrane reviews), that can be used and may be preferable.

Prophylactic ergometrine‐oxytocin versus oxytocin for the third stage of labour

Ergometrine‐oxytocin (Syntometrine®) is more effective than oxytocin (Syntocinon®) in reducing blood loss during the delivery of the placenta, but has more side‐effects.

Treatment for excessive bleeding after childbirth

After a woman gives birth, womb muscles contract, clamping down on the blood vessels and helping to limit bleeding when the placenta has detached. If the muscles do not contract strongly enough, very heavy bleeding (postpartum haemorrhage) can occur, which can be life threatening. These situations are common in resource‐poor countries, and maternal mortality is about 100 times higher than in resource‐rich countries. It is a very serious problem that requires effective treatments that might avoid the use of surgery to remove the womb (hysterectomy). This is often the last treatment option and leaves the woman unable to have more children. In most settings, women are given a drug at the time of birth (before excessive bleeding occurs) to reduce the likelihood of excessive blood loss. However, despite this intervention, some women bleed excessively, and this review looked to see what interventions might be used to reduce the amount of blood lost by these women. Treatment options include drugs to increase muscles contractions (such as oxytocin, ergometrine and prostaglandins like misoprostol), drugs to help with blood clotting (haemostatic drugs such as tranexamic acid and recombinant activated factor VII), surgical techniques (such as tying off or blocking of the uterine artery) and radiological interventions (to assist in blocking the main artery to the womb by using gel foams).

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Summaries for consumers

Active management of third stage of labour with ergot alkaloid drugs (e.g. ergometrine)

The third stage of labour is the period from birth of the baby to the expulsion of the placenta and membranes. As the placenta separates, there is inevitably some blood loss from the placental site until the muscles of the uterus clamp the blood vessels. Fit, healthy women cope with this normal blood loss without problems, but where poor nutrition, poor sanitation and limited or no access to clinical care are complications of pregnancy, severe morbidity and mortality can result from excessive blood loss at birth. This is very common in low‐ and middle‐income countries. Active intervention, called 'active management of third stage', is recommended for the third stage of labour to reduce excess blood loss. Active intervention incorporates (1) the administration of a uterotonic drug, given either just before or just after the baby is born to help the muscles of the uterus contract; (2) early cord clamping; and (3) the use of controlled cord traction to deliver the placenta. This review of studies looked at the use of one group of uterotonic drugs called ergot alkaloids, e.g. ergometrine, as part of this active management. The review found six trials involving 3941 women receiving ergometrine by mouth (orally), into the muscle (intramuscularly (IM)) or into the vein (intravenously (IV)). Evidence indicates that the oral route was not very effective. The IV route, although it reduced blood loss, was associated with the adverse effects of raised blood pressure and pain due to uterine contraction, and so is unlikely to be used. The IM route showed benefit in terms of reducing blood loss, and although there were adverse effects similar to those associated with the IV route, these were less common. So, while the ergot alkaloid group of drugs given IM is an option, there are other drugs, namely oxytocin, syntometrine and prostaglandins (which are assessed in other Cochrane reviews), that can be used and may be preferable.

Prophylactic ergometrine‐oxytocin versus oxytocin for the third stage of labour

Ergometrine‐oxytocin (Syntometrine®) is more effective than oxytocin (Syntocinon®) in reducing blood loss during the delivery of the placenta, but has more side‐effects.

Treatment for excessive bleeding after childbirth

After a woman gives birth, womb muscles contract, clamping down on the blood vessels and helping to limit bleeding when the placenta has detached. If the muscles do not contract strongly enough, very heavy bleeding (postpartum haemorrhage) can occur, which can be life threatening. These situations are common in resource‐poor countries, and maternal mortality is about 100 times higher than in resource‐rich countries. It is a very serious problem that requires effective treatments that might avoid the use of surgery to remove the womb (hysterectomy). This is often the last treatment option and leaves the woman unable to have more children. In most settings, women are given a drug at the time of birth (before excessive bleeding occurs) to reduce the likelihood of excessive blood loss. However, despite this intervention, some women bleed excessively, and this review looked to see what interventions might be used to reduce the amount of blood lost by these women. Treatment options include drugs to increase muscles contractions (such as oxytocin, ergometrine and prostaglandins like misoprostol), drugs to help with blood clotting (haemostatic drugs such as tranexamic acid and recombinant activated factor VII), surgical techniques (such as tying off or blocking of the uterine artery) and radiological interventions (to assist in blocking the main artery to the womb by using gel foams).

See all (4)

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