How are the cardinal movements of labor characterized?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019
  • Author: Sarah Hagood Milton, MD; Chief Editor: Christine Isaacs, MD  more...
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Answer

Answer

The mechanisms of labor, also known as the cardinal movements, involve changes in the position of the fetus’s head during its passage in labor. These are described in relation to a vertex presentation. Although labor and delivery occurs in a continuous fashion, the cardinal movements are described as the following 7 discrete sequences [2] :

  1. Engagement

  2. Descent

  3. Flexion

  4. Internal rotation

  5. Extension

  6. Restitution and external rotation

  7. Expulsion


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