Newborns delivered by elective cesarean section (CS) are at higher respiratory risk than those delivered vaginally or by CS proceeded by labor (secondary CS). The oxytocin challenge test (OCT) induces uterine contractions that trigger the release of fetal hormones regulating lung fluid clearance during transition from the uterine to an air-breathing environment.
The aim is to summarize current evidence and outline the Lacarus trial protocol.
Literature review informed the design of a randomized placebo-controlled multicenter trial of OCT preceding elective CS in 1,450 women with a singleton pregnancy due for CS at >35 weeks gestation, without preceding contractions, rupture of the membranes, or antenatal steroids. OCT comprises the infusion of oxytocin 5 IU/500 mL Ringer lactate at a rate of 12 mL/h, doubling every 10 min until inducing 5 uterine contractions per 15-min interval. The primary endpoint is the occurrence of neonatal respiratory morbidity within 24 h after birth. Secondary endpoints include biochemical and physiological parameters of fetal and maternal well-being, such as breastfeeding rate and fetal plasma copeptin concentrations.
This is the first trial to test the hypothesis that oxytocin-induced contractions before elective CS is a promising application of physiologic principles gleaned from natural birth to improve neonatal and maternal outcomes.