BACKGROUND: The cardiovascular effects of oxytocin in animal models and women undergoing Caesarean section include tachycardia, hypotension and decrease in cardiac output. These can be sufficient to cause significant compromise in high-risk patients. We aimed to find a simple way to decrease these risks whilst retaining the benefits of oxytocin in decreasing bleeding after delivery. Method. We recruited 30 women undergoing elective Caesarean section. They were randomly allocated to receive 5 u of oxytocin either as a bolus injection (bolus group) or an infusion over 5 min (infusion group). These women had their heart rate and intra-arterial blood pressure recorded every 5 s throughout the procedure. The haemodynamic data, along with the estimated blood loss, were compared between the groups. RESULTS: Marked cardiovascular changes occurred in the bolus group; the heart rate increased by 17 (10.7) beats min(-1) [mean (sd)] compared with 10 (9.7) beats min(-1) in the infusion group. The mean arterial pressure decreased by 27 (7.6) mm Hg in the bolus group compared with 8 (8.7) mm Hg in the infusion group. There were no differences in the estimated blood loss between the two groups. CONCLUSION: We recommend that bolus doses should be used with caution, and further studies should ascertain if oxytocin is equally effective in reducing blood loss when given at a slower rate.