How is prolonged second-stage labor managed?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019
  • Author: Sarah Hagood Milton, MD; Chief Editor: Christine Isaacs, MD  more...
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When a prolonged second stage of labor is encountered, clinical assessment of the parturient, the fetus, and the expulsive forces is warranted. A randomized controlled trial performed by Api et al determined that application of fundal pressure on the uterus does not shorten the second stage of labor. [61] Although the 2003 ACOG practice guidelines state that the duration of the second stage alone does not mandate intervention by operative vaginal delivery or cesarean delivery if progress is being made, the clinician has several management options (continuing observation/expectant management, operative vaginal delivery by forceps or vacuum-assisted vaginal delivery, or cesarean delivery) when second-stage arrest is diagnosed.

The association between a prolonged second stage of labor and adverse maternal or neonatal outcome has been examined. While a prolonged second stage is not associated with adverse neonatal outcomes in nulliparas, possibly because of close fetal surveillance during labor, but it is associated with increased maternal morbidity, including higher likelihood of operative vaginal delivery and cesarean delivery, postpartum hemorrhage, third- or fourth-degree perineal lacerations, and peripartum infection. [11, 12, 13, 14] Therefore, it is crucial to weigh the risks of operative delivery against the potential benefits of continuing labor in hopes to achieve vaginal delivery. The question of when to intervene should involve a thorough evaluation of the ongoing risks of further expectant management versus the risks of intervention with vaginal or cesarean delivery, as well as the patients' preferences.


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