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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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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