Effect of Different Partogram Action Lines on Birth Outcomes: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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The World Health Organization recommends partograms with a 4-hour action line, denoting the timing of intervention for prolonged labor; others recommend earlier intervention. We assessed the effect of different action line positioning on birth outcomes.


A randomized trial of primigravid women with uncomplicated pregnancies, in spontaneous labor at term, was conducted in the northwest of England. Women were assigned to have their labors recorded on a partogram with an action line 2 or 4 hours to the right of the alert line. If progress crossed the action line, diagnosis of prolonged labor was made and managed according to standard protocol. Primary outcomes were rate of cesarean delivery and maternal satisfaction.


A total of 3,000 women were randomly assigned to groups; 2,975 (99.2%) were available for analysis. Questionnaires were completed by 1,929 (65%) women. There were no differences in cesarean delivery rate (136/1,490 compared with 135/1,485; relative risk [RR] 1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.80–1.26) or women dissatisfied with labor experience (72/962 compared with 81/967; RR 0.89, 95% CI 0.66–1.21). More women assigned to the 2-hour arm had labors that crossed the action line (854/1,490 compared with 673/1,485; RR 1.27, 95% CI 1.18–1.37); received more intervention (772/1,490 compared with 624/1,485; RR 1.23, 95% CI 1.14–1.33); and, if admitted to the midwife-led unit, were transferred for consultant-led care (366/674 compared with 285/666; RR 1.26, 95% CI 1.13–1.42).


In this birth setting, for primigravid women selecting low intervention care, the 2-hour partogram increases the need for intervention without improving maternal or neonatal outcomes, compared with the 4-hour partogram, advocated by the World Health Organization.


Current Controlled Trials, http://www.controlled-trials.com/isrctn/trial/|/0/78346801.html, ISRCTN78346801.



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