Maternal position during the first stage of labor: a systematic review
João P Souza1, Maria A Miquelutti1, Jose G Cecatti1,2 and Maria Y Makuch2
1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medical Sciences, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil
2CEMICAMP – Center for Studies in Reproductive Health of Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil
Policy makers and health professionals are progressively using evidence-based rationale to guide their decisions. There has long been controversy regarding which maternal position is more appropriate during the first stage of labor. This problem has been examined often and repeatedly and the optimal recommendation remains unclear.
This is a systematic review of the effect of maternal position during the first stage of labor. The main question addressed here is: Does encouraging women to adopt an upright position or to ambulate during the first stage of labor reduce the duration of this stage? All randomized controlled trials carried out to assess this effect were taken into consideration in this review. The following electronic databases were accessed to identify studies: MEDLINE, Popline, the Scientific Electronic Library On-line and the Latin American and Caribbean Health Science Information. Citation eligibility was independently assessed by two reviewers. The methodological quality of each trial was also evaluated independently by two reviewers and a trial under consideration was included only when consensus had been attained. Allocation concealment and screening for the occurrence of attrition, performance and detection biases were considered when studies were appraised. The decision whether to perform data pooling was based on the clinical similarity of studies.
The search strategy resulted in 260 citations, of which 18 were assessed in full-text. Nine eligible randomized controlled trials were included in the systematic review. Randomization methods were not fully described in eight studies. The allocation concealment was considered adequate in four studies and unclear in five. The investigators pooled the data from seven studies in which the length of the first stage of labor and results were in favor of the intervention, but the high level of heterogeneity (I2 = 88.4%) impaired the meaning of this finding. The intervention did not affect other outcomes studied (mode of delivery, use of analgesia, labor augmentation and condition of the child at birth).
Adoption of the upright position or ambulation during first stage of labor may be safe, but considering the available evidence and its consistency, it cannot be recommended as an effective intervention to reduce duration of the first stage of labor.
Reproductive Health 2006, 3:10. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.