What are the steps in the delivery of a fetus?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019
  • Author: Sarah Hagood Milton, MD; Chief Editor: Christine Isaacs, MD  more...
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When delivery is imminent, the mother is usually positioned supine with her knees bent (ie, dorsal lithotomy position), though delivery can occur with the mother in any position, including the lateral (Sims) position, the partial sitting or squatting position, or on her hands and knees. [2] Although an episiotomy (an incision continuous with the vaginal introitus) used to be routinely performed at this time, the ACOG recommended in 2006 that its use be restricted to maternal or fetal indications. Studies have also shown that routine episiotomy does not decrease the risk of severe perineal lacerations during forceps or vacuum-assisted vaginal deliveries. [62, 63]

Crowning is the word used to describe when the fetal head forcibly extends the vaginal outlet. A modified Ritgen maneuver can be performed to deliver the head. Draped with a sterile towel, the heel of the clinician's hand is placed over the posterior perineum overlying the fetal chin, and pressure is applied upward to extend the fetus' head. The other hand is placed over the fetus' occiput, with pressure applied downward to flex its head. Thus, the head is held in mid position until it is delivered, followed by suctioning of the oropharynx and nares. Check the fetus' neck for a wrapped umbilical cord, and promptly reduce it if possible. If the cord is wrapped too tightly to be removed, the cord can be double clamped and cut. Of note, some providers, in an attempt to avoid shoulder dystocia, deliver the anterior shoulder prior to restitution of the fetal head.

Next, the fetus' anterior shoulder is delivered with gentle downward traction on its head and chin. Subsequent upward pressure in the opposite direction facilitates delivery of the posterior shoulder. The rest of the fetus should now be easily delivered with gentle traction away from the mother. If not done previously, the cord is clamped and cut. The baby is vigorously stimulated and dried and then transferred to the care of the waiting attendants or placed on the mother's abdomen.

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