Fundal Pressure During the Second Stage of Labor: Clinical Perspectives and Risk Management Issues

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Abstract

The role of fundal pressure during the second stage of labor is controversial and can result in clinical disagreements between nurses and physicians. Clearly the time for resolution of this issue is not when there is a physician request at the bedside in front of the patient. A prospectively agreed upon plan specifying how this request will be addressed is ideal. In order to develop this plan, risks, benefits, and alternative approaches to the use of fundal pressure should be reviewed by an interdisciplinary perinatal team. Much of the data about maternal-fetal injuries related to fundal pressure are not published for medical-legal reasons; however, anecdotal reports suggest that these risks exist. Unfortunately, it is therefore difficult to quantify with any degree of accuracy the exact number of maternal-fetal injuries that are directly related to use of fundal pressure to shorten an otherwise normal second stage of labor. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that if injury does occur when fundal pressure is used, there are significant medical-legal implications for the health care providers involved. This article will review what is currently known about fundal pressure including risks, benefits, and alternative approaches. In that context, suggestions will be offered for a safe approach to managing the second stage of labor.

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