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© 2015 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. OBJECTIVE: To assess the effectiveness and safety of pharmacologic interventions for the treatment of retained placenta (when the placenta remains undelivered after 30 minutes of active management of the third stage of labor). DATA SOURCES: We searched: 1) Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), 2) Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register, 3) EMBASE, and 4) MEDLINE from inception to June 2014. METHODS OF STUDY SELECTION: Randomized controlled trials comparing a pharmacologic intervention(s) with a placebo for the treatment of retained placenta were included. TABULATION, INTEGRATION, AND RESULTS: Sixteen randomized controlled trials, including 1,683 participants, were included. Study characteristics and quality were recorded. The meta-analysis was based on random-effects methods for pooled data. There were no statistically significant differences in the requirement to perform manual removal of a placenta in patients treated with oxytocin (55% compared with 60%; relative risk [RR] 0.86, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.73-1.02; 10 randomized controlled trials [RCTs]), prostaglandins (44% compared with 55%; RR 0.82, 95% CI 0.58-1.15; four RCTs), nitroglycerin (85% compared with 80%; RR 1.06, 95% CI 0.80-1.41; one RCT), or oxytocin and nitroglycerin (52% compared with 79%; RR 0.23, 95% CI 0.01-8.48; two RCTs) compared with placebo. There was limited reporting of secondary outcomes. CONCLUSION: As opposed to the use of oxytocin as part of the active management of the third stage of labor that has been shown to diminish bleeding in the third stage, once the diagnosis of retained placenta has been made, no pharmacologic treatment has been shown to be effective. When retained placenta is diagnosed, immediate manual removal of the placenta should be considered.

Original publication




Journal article


Obstetrics and Gynecology

Publication Date





711 - 718