Uterine contractions can be registered by external tocodynamometry (ET) or, after rupture of the membranes, by internal tocodynamometry (IT). Monitoring of the frequency of contractions is important especially when intravenous oxytocin is used as excessive uterine activity (hyperstimulation or tachysystole) can cause fetal distress. During induction of labour as well as during augmentation with intravenous oxytocin, some clinicians choose to monitor frequency and strength of contractions with IT rather than with ET as an intrauterine pressure catheter measures intrauterine activity more accurately than an extra-abdominal tocodynamometry device. However, insertion of an intrauterine catheter has higher costs and also potential risks for mother and child.
To assess the effectiveness of IT compared with using ET when intravenous oxytocin is used for induction or augmentation of labour.
We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (31 March 2013) and PubMed (1966 to 6 April 2013).
We included all published randomised controlled trials with data from women in whom IT was compared with ET in induced or augmented labour with oxytocin. We excluded trials that employed quasi-randomised methods of treatment allocation. We found no unpublished or ongoing studies on this subject.
Two review authors independently assessed trial eligibility and risk of bias, and independently extracted data. Data were checked for accuracy. Where necessary, we contacted study authors for additional information.
Three studies involving a total of 1945 women were included. Overall, risk of bias across the three trials was mixed. No serious complications were reported in the trials and no neonatal or maternal deaths occurred. The neonatal outcome was not statistically different between groups: Apgar score less than seven at five minutes (RR 1.78, 95% CI 0.83 to 3.83; three studies, n = 1945); umbilical artery pH less than 7.15 (RR 1.31, 95% CI 0.95 to 1.79; one study, n = 1456); umbilical artery pH less than 7.16 (RR 1.23, 95% CI 0.39 to 3.92; one study, n = 239); admission to the neonatal intensive care unit (RR 0.34, 95% CI 0.07 to 1.67; two studies, n = 489); and more than 48 hours hospitalisation (RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.71 to 1.20; one study, n = 1456). The pooled risk for instrumental delivery (including caesarean section, ventouse and forceps extraction) was not statistically significantly different (RR 1.05, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.21; three studies, n = 1945). Hyperstimulation was reported in two studies (n = 489), but there was no statistically significant difference between groups (RR 1.21, 95% CI 0.78 to 1.88).
This review found no differences between the two types of monitoring (internal or external tocodynamometry) for any of the maternal or neonatal outcomes. Given that this review is based on three studies (N = 1945 women) of moderate quality, there is insufficient evidence to recommend the use of one form of tocodynamometry over another for women where intravenous oxytocin was administered for induction or augmentation of labour.