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What is Syntometrine?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Feb 25, 2024
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Syntometrine is a medication commonly given to women in their final stages of labor. It is a combination of two powerful ingredients that, when injected directly into uterine muscles, induce contractions after a baby has been delivered. By causing contractions, syntometrine aids in a quick, comfortable delivery of the placenta and helps to stop bleeding. The medicine can cause side effects in some women, so patients are carefully monitored during and after injections to make sure they do not experience adverse reactions. The majority of women treated with syntometrine have no complications.

The active ingredients in syntometrine are oxytocin and ergometrine. Oxytocin is a chemical hormone that is naturally produced by the body during labor to promote rhythmic uterine muscle contractions and reduce pain and stress. The synthetic oxytocin found in syntometrine accomplishes the same goals. Ergometrine induces smooth muscle contractions and constricts excess blood flow by raising dopamine and serotonin levels in the body.

A patient is usually given a syntometrine injection directly into her uterus during the third stage of labor, once the baby is already delivered or nearly all the way out of the womb. The medication allows the placenta to be purged from the uterus fairly quickly and in a pain-free fashion. By inducing muscle contractions and blood vessel constriction in the uterus after giving birth, a doctor can significantly reduce the total amount of blood lost and prevent complications related to hemorrhaging.

It is important for a patient to explain her medical history and drug allergies with her obstetrician well before her baby is due to determine if it will be safe to use syntometrine. The medication can cause serious allergic responses, drug interactions, and side effects if it is not cautiously administered. Active infections, high blood pressure, a history of pre-eclampsia, or any known allergies to ergometrine typically indicate that the drug should not be used.

The most common side effects with syntometrine use include nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, and mild chest pains. Some patients also notice cramping or painful sensations in their abdomens that are distinct from their labor pains. Signs of an allergic reaction can include throat swelling, chest tightness, wheezing, and severe breathing difficulties. Rarely, the drug can cause a sudden, sharp drop or rise in blood pressure that may induce cardiac arrest. With careful monitoring during and after the drug is given, doctors can prevent most side effects from becoming life-threatening problems.

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Discussion Comments
By JaneAir — On Feb 06, 2012

I'm not sure if this drug was around in the 1980s when I was born, but my mom could have used this drug for its ability to stop bleeding. When I was born she hemorrhaged directly afterwards and almost died! She ended up needing a blood transfusion and had to stay at the hospital a little bit longer than she would normally have.

Maybe if she had taken syntometrine she wouldn't have hemorrhaged, or at least not lost so much blood. Either way, I'm going to keep this in mind for my future whenever I decide to start having children.

By SZapper — On Feb 06, 2012

@JessicaLynn - I've never given birth either. In fact, I'm considering infant adoption in the future instead of having children of my own for various reasons. So it's unlikely I'll ever need to take syntometrine.

However, I think it's possible to take syntometrine without complications, so I wouldn't worry too much about it for the future. Like the article said, it's something a woman would discuss with her doctor well before childbirth. That way the doctor can find out about the womans medical history and make a decision about the safety of the drug in that case.

By JessicaLynn — On Feb 05, 2012

Syntometrine sounds amazing and a little scary. It sounds great for a woman in labor to be able to pass the placenta quickly and not worry about blood loss. However, the thought of having an allergic reaction to a medication right after going through labor sounds positively horrifying!

I've never given birth, but from what my friends tell me it's not exactly a walk in the park. But afterwards, you get to hold your baby and it all seems worth it. How can you bond with your baby if you're having a severe allergic reaction to medication?

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