Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fundal Pressure: An Outdated Technique

Image from humanrightsinchildbirth.org  

We blogged recently about common hospital birthing positions and "alternative" birthing positions used in many historical and traditional societies.

We discussed how traditional societies, both now and in the past, used different birthing positions than the ones usually seen in the hospital.

Typically their positions were more upright so as to use gravity to help move the baby down, although other positions were seen as well.

Today, though, let's talk about one practice found in both traditional societies and in modern hospital obstetrics that may actually be harmful ─ fundal pressure.

Fundal Pressure

As we have mentioned before, although ancient societies had a great deal of birth wisdom, ancient is not always better. Just because an ancient society used a particular position or technique does not necessarily make it a good idea.

One technique that is occasionally found in some ancient or tribal cultures that is not supported by research is Fundal Pressure (pushing down on the top of the mother's uterus to try to hurry up labor or force a baby out).

Sadly, this is one ancient practice that is still found in the modern obstetric world ─ but it shouldn't be. It is probably not helpful and is often harmful ─ especially when used during shoulder dystocia.

Managing a difficult labor in Siam by
pulling down for fundal pressure;
Englemann book*
Several cultures used the pressure of a birth helper's arm to press down on the woman's uterus during labor. Usually this was just added during a difficult birth as a last resort, since few other options existed and a cesarean was only done if the mother had already died or was dying. Most of the time, it was truly an option of last resort.

Using a sheet to exert fundal pressure during labor;
Drawing by G. Devy from Witkowski book*
However, sometimes it was used routinely during labor in certain cultures and times, as in the image above from California in about 1840. Although this downward squeeze was less forceful and more gradual than other fundal pressure techniques, it also holds some risks.

Although not common, fundal pressure was a technique seen in some ancient cultures. However, its use in modern settings is highly questionable.

Still Used in Many Hospitals

Fundal Pressure on a birthing mother
Photo credit: Lieve Blancquaert, WHO Reproductive Health Library
This ancient technique was brought into the hospital because in the mid-20th century, women birthed flat on their backs with feet elevated into stirrups (the "lithotomy" position). Usually the women were heavily drugged and had difficulty helping the baby to move down. Babies needed to be born as quickly as possible because of frequent fetal distress due to the drugs and the on-the-back position. As a result, hospitals tied women down, cut giant episiotomies to widen the vagina, and had nurses use fundal pressure to push while the doctor used forceps to pull the baby out as quickly as possible.

Despite the fact that such dangerous drugs are not used anymore, fundal pressure is a technique still seen in some hospitals. In the medical literature, it is often called the Kristeller Maneuver, after Samuel Kristeller, the doctor who wrote about its use.

Fundal pressure is when someone presses down on the top of the mother's uterus, on the area nearest her ribs at full term. Sometimes it's done with steady continuing downward pressure, as when an arm or a tightening abdominal binder is used, and sometimes it was a series of short, sharp, very forceful pushes on the top of the uterus during contractions (Kristeller's Maneuver**).

It is most often added during a slow labor, or when the mother is perceived as not being able to push very hard because she is tired or has an epidural. Care providers theorized it would increase intra-abdominal pressure, resulting in greater expulsive forces. In some areas of the world, it is added routinely during pushing to get the baby out faster.

Some hospitals have even been experimenting lately with routinely using an inflatable abdominal binder on women with epidurals, who may have difficulty moving the baby down through the pelvis because the muscles in that area are partially paralyzed from the epidural. [This is probably similar to the sheets used in the California picture in the last section, a slow squeeze downward.]

Fundal pressure used to be used routinely in U.S. hospitals, but its use has declined. However, some do still use it.

Listening to Mothers II, a 2006 survey of birthing women in the United States, found that 17% of mothers reported having fundal pressure applied during their births. If nearly 1 in 5 mothers are still experiencing fundal pressure that recently, then it is still a fairly common intervention that must be examined closely.

Some care providers utilize fundal pressure in the belief that it shortens labor, especially in the pushing stage. A Cochrane Review and the World Health Organization review have found few randomized controlled trials on its use and have concluded that there is not enough good evidence to evaluate this practice.

However, a randomized controlled trial published after the Cochrane review found no reduction in the duration of pushing. Even in studies that have found modest effects on the length of pushing, this was offset by a trade-off of risks, including an increase in perineal lacerations, anal sphincter tearsurinary problems afterwards for the mother, and increased admissions to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for the baby.

Henci Goer has written a great review of the research examining fundal pressure in labor. She concluded that there are no real benefits, and that more mothers experienced anal sphincter tears and more babies experienced nerve damage injury when fundal pressure was used.

One review suggested that many more injuries from fundal pressure go unreported because the providers are afraid of being sued:
Much of the data about maternal-fetal injuries related to fundal pressure are not published for medical-legal reasons; however, anecdotal reports suggest that these risks exist. Unfortunately, it is therefore difficult to quantify with any degree of accuracy the exact number of maternal-fetal injuries that are directly related to use of fundal pressure to shorten an otherwise normal second stage of labor. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that if injury does occur when fundal pressure is used, there are significant medical-legal implications for the health care providers involved.
There are a number of case reports of uterine rupture occurring in an unscarred uterus after fundal pressure during the pushing stage. In addition, there are isolated case reports of rib fractures/hemothorax and uterine prolapse after fundal pressure. There have also been fetal deaths and maternal deaths that have occurred which may have been associated with use of fundal pressure.

Obviously, there can be serious harms with the use of fundal pressure. Yet because of widespread fear around being sued, many of these harms are probably being under-reported, helping to keep this practice alive.

Fundal Pressure During Shoulder Dystocia

Image from elpartoesnuestro.es
Fundal pressure during labor results in little benefit and is associated with some degree of harm. It is a practice that should be stopped.

However, fundal pressure when a baby's shoulders get stuck (shoulder dystocia) is CLEARLY harmful. It should have been abandoned long ago ─ yet it is still practiced in many institutions. Vacuum extraction/forceps plus fundal pressure seems to be a particularly dangerous combination.

Suprapubic Pressure for shoulder dystocia.
This is not the same as fundal pressure
Please note that suprapubic pressure is different from fundal pressure. Suprapubic pressure is a common and accepted maneuver for use with shoulder dystocia. It puts pressure on the mother's pubic symphysis joint ─ down low, not up high like fundal pressure. It is done to try to push the baby's top shoulder (which is stuck behind the pubic symphysis in a shoulder dystocia) under the bone. It accomplishes this by pushing the baby's impacted shoulder down and through, or by pushing the baby's shoulders towards each other, thereby reducing their width and helping them to move through.

Please note that we are also not talking about postpartum fundal massage. This is a technique sometimes done after the baby is delivered to try and help the uterus contract more efficiently and to help reduce significant postpartum bleeding.

Fundal pressure during labor, on the other hand, is pressing forcefully on the TOP of the mother's uterus (the "fundus," which is near the ribs at term), usually while pushing, to try and give more force to move the baby through the pelvis. Here is a picture of what fundal pressure in labor looks like.

Fundal pressure. The pushing is at the top of the uterus (fundus),
unlike suprapubic pressure, where the pushing is much lower,
on the mother's pubic symphysis pelvic joint
Fundal pressure is harmful in shoulder dystocia because the baby's shoulder is already trapped behind the pubic symphysis and pushing harder doesn't resolve the problem, but rather rams the baby harder into the mother's bones. 

Fundal pressure combined with the care provider pulling on the baby's head/neck area can damage the baby's nerves, resulting in Brachial Plexus Palsy (BPP). Although many cases of BPP resolve with time, some do not, leaving the baby permanently damaged.

Research shows that the risk for Brachial Plexus Palsy increases in the presence of fundal pressure. One review of obstetric maneuvers for shoulder dystocia states (my emphasis):
Excessive force must not be applied to the fetal head or neck and fundal pressure must be avoided. These activities are unlikely to free the impaction and may cause fetal and maternal injury.
Another review notes that BOTH the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) from the U.K. and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) from the U.S. recommend against fundal pressure for shoulder dystocia:
In any case fundal pressure should not be used for the treatment of SD because it could worsen the impaction, with subsequential risk of fetus or mother injury.
In fact, the most recent guidelines on managing shoulder dystocia from ACOG state outright (their emphasis): "CAUTION: NEVER USE FUNDAL PRESSURE." 

Similarly, RCOG's latest guidelines state, "Fundal pressure should not be used."

However, despite these recommendations and research that fundal pressure worsens outcomes, recent studies suggest that fundal pressure is still used too often when shoulder dystocia is encountered.

Fundal Pressure Around the World

Image from elpartoesnuestro.es 
Unfortunately, fundal pressure is not a remnant of the past. It is still being used today.

Sometimes it is the slow steady downward pressure of an arm, as in the picture above, and sometimes an inflatable belt substitutes for the arm so the nurse doesn't have to be present all the time. And sometimes it is still the short, sharp downward pushes on the fundus (as Kristeller described), seen in the video below.

The good news is that use of fundal pressure has decreased in U.S. hospitals. In 1990, one nationwide survey of hospital nurses found that 84% of their hospitals used fundal pressure at times, but a study from 2005-6 in a Maryland hospital found a huge drop to a 5.9% rate of fundal pressure.

However, also remember that the Listening to Mothers II Survey in the same year reported that 17% of women had experienced fundal pressure during their labors. That's nearly 1 in 5 women.

Fundal pressure during labor is even more common in many non-U.S. hospitals. Hospitals in ItalyBulgariaBrazilTurkeyJapan, and India have published recent research on the use of fundal pressure, and I've read recent anecdotal reports on its use in Germany and Honduras.

Recent online discussion has suggested that it is most common in mid-Europe and Eastern Europe, as well as many Spanish-speaking countries. Korean hospitals seem to be pushing the inflatable abdominal binder as a way to use fundal pressure on women with epidurals. Italian hospitals have also investigated inflatable binders.

One hospital in Egypt reported recently that fundal pressure was used in 24% of the births there. A Brazilian study reported the use of fundal pressure in 37% of births.

A recent large study from Japan surveyed 1,430 hospitals and found that 89% of hospitals reported using fundal pressure in at least some of their births. Among the women who birthed vaginally, about 11% experienced fundal pressure. The survey documented six cases of uterine rupture and one maternal death due to complications from fundal pressure. Obviously, this practice can be associated with significant harms, yet the authors did not call for ending its use, only for clearer indications and better training on its use.

One recent study from Spain found that when pushing phases were "prolonged," doctors used fundal pressure nearly 70% of the time. The Ministry of Health and the Spanish Society of Ginecology and Obstetrics (SEGO) estimated that in 2010, the Kristeller Maneuver was used in at least 26% of births. As a result, there is a major campaign to stop the use of fundal pressure in Spanish hospitals at elpartoesnuestro.es.

The above youtube video graphically shows the Kristeller Maneuver in a classic lithotomy birth from 2007. Be warned, it's a very rough video to watch.

There are a number of other youtube videos that show similar scenes of fundal pressure, usually with the woman flat or nearly flat on her back. (Be aware that some of them are graphic and involve episiotomies.)

Every time I see one of these videos, I think how much simpler and safer it would be to simply get the woman into an upright position instead of using fundal pressure. 

From the ease of finding such videos, it seems clear that fundal pressure is a technique still used in many countries today, frequently in concert with on-the-back positioning and episiotomy. It is still an accepted practice in far too many countries.

It is time for this barbaric practice to STOP.

A Recent U.S. Fundal Pressure Story

Although less common in the U.S., fundal pressure is still sometimes used in U.S. hospitals too ─ even during shoulder dystocia when it CLEARLY contra-indicated.

In fact, a personal friend of mine had fundal pressure used on her ONE year ago this month when she experienced a shoulder dystocia in the hospital. It is in honor of that child's upcoming first birthday that I write this post.

I wasn't at the birth, but from the description of a nurse and midwife (who was acting as a doula) and the grandmother, the pulling force on the baby and the fundal pressure used on the mother was quite excessive.

I questioned them very closely about what exactly was done, and it seems clear that indeed it was fundal pressure and not suprapubic pressure that was done ─ and done very strongly. The traction on the baby was also VERY significant. Frankly, it's truly a miracle this baby did not sustain a BPP injury.

In the end, the baby's arm was broken and her ability to move was damaged for several months. The mother suffered significantly postpartum as well, with excessive bleeding, retained placental fragments, swelling, an infection, and urinary retention for more than a week. The mother needed a D&C eventually to get out all the placental fragments, and she had a long hard physical recovery.

With treatment (mostly Craniosacral Therapy, which is amazing for birth trauma), the baby is doing well now. Her broken arm has healed and she seems to have regained full use of it. They still have some concerns about her movement, but by and large she seems to have healed. She is lucky that she (apparently) didn't suffer more permanent damage, considering the amount of force that was used. The mother has also physically recovered, but was emotionally quite traumatized. Indeed, both the grandmother and the doula were left with significant emotional scars as well.

It's important to acknowledge that the mother had insulin-dependent Gestational Diabetes, a strong risk factor for shoulder dystocia, but the baby was average-sized and perfectly proportionate. The mother was also average-sized, athletic, and in very good shape, yet she still had a significant case of GD.

Because of her GD, it's possible this mother may truly have had a difficult shoulder dystocia no matter how the birth was managed, but it seems to me there is a good chance this highly traumatic birth could have been avoided if the mother had not been induced, kept in bed, kept on her back, and had fundal pressure and traction used in her birth. The doula (who is also nurse and midwife, remember) felt strongly that this birth had been badly managed.

And of course, the mother has been told that she HAS to have a cesarean for any subsequent children, which she is naturally happy to consider after the emotional and physical trauma of this birth. So the mother will likely endure the invasive trauma and all the risks of surgery in the future for a situation that might have been avoided (or at least better handled).

I am outraged by the subpar treatment this mother received, angry that her baby was endangered, and APPALLED that fundal pressure was used during a shoulder dystocia in this day and age, despite all the professional recommendations to the contrary.

Remember, this story happened only last year, and it was in the U.S. where fundal pressure is fairly uncommon now. Imagine how many stories similar to my friend's story must be happening in non-U.S. hospitals, where fundal pressure is far more common. This practice must stop.


Image from elpartoesnuestro.es
Fundal pressure was done in tribal societies, but was done largely as a desperate, last-measure resort in a difficult and prolonged labor. Since they did not have recourse to a safe cesarean as an alternative during a difficult labor, fundal pressure became part of the folk tradition. Although a few cultures did use it as a regular part of their labor practices, it was mostly reserved for prolonged, obstructed labors.

While much wisdom can be gained from tribal and historic birthing practices, that doesn't mean that everything they did is appropriate anymore. We do have safer and more humane alternatives for some things nowadays; fundal pressure is not the only option anymore when faced with a long, hard labor.

Fundal pressure came into use in hospital settings in response to highly-drugged mothers in order to get the babies out as quickly as possible. The potential harm from fundal pressure was seen as less dangerous than the risk for fetal distress from drug exposure and hypoxia (low oxygenation).

However, birth conditions today are much different than they were in the mid-1900s. While many women are still exposed to drugs through epidurals today, the fetal exposure in epidurals is considerably lower than the IV drugs of the past, and the drugs used now are safer than the ones used previously. Labor does not have to be rushed in order to minimize the risk for fetal distress and hypoxia anymore.

There are simpler, safer and more humane alternatives to fundal pressure during labor. Research shows that these include:
If none of these techniques help, then a cesarean can be considered. Although cesareans are a significant surgery and should not be used without true need, they are far safer now than they used to be. Sometimes they can be the best choice in a long, hard, non-progressive labor. 

Similarly, even during the obstetric emergency of shoulder dystocia, there are FAR better alternatives than fundal pressure:
  • McRoberts plus Suprapubic Pressure - The first procedure usually recommended for shoulder dystocia is to flex the mother's knees back towards her shoulders (McRoberts maneuver), combined with suprapubic pressure. These two maneuvers together resolve about half of all shoulder dystocias without need for further maneuvers
  • Internal Rotational Maneuvers - There are a number of maneuvers that involve the care provider putting their hands inside the mother and helping the baby rotate its shoulders into an oblique (diagonal) presentation, which gives more room for the baby to get out. In addition, the posterior arm can be delivered, which reduces the width of the shoulders
  • Move the Mother's Position - Many midwives know that moving the mother is often even more effective than internal maneuvers. Although most doctors have not been trained in these maneuvers anymore, rolling the mother onto all fours (the Gaskin maneuver), moving her into an asymmetric position so that one hip is higher than the other, or raising the mother's pelvis and having her arch her back strongly (Walcher's Position) are all positional changes that can work for resolving shoulder dystocia. Many of these were recommended in old obstetric textbooks but have gone out of routine practice; it is time for these to be re-explored in modern obstetrics
To summarize, research suggests that there is no real benefit from fundal pressure during labor. Any possible benefits of a slightly shorter labor in a very few studies have been offset by more perineal damage, more babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and more fetal nerve damage. Furthermore, sometimes fundal pressure can even result in catastrophic damage such as uterine ruptures, uterine prolapse, or even deaths.

Furthermore, fundal pressure during shoulder dystocia is a disaster waiting to happen. Every major organization recommends against its use during shoulder dystocia, yet my friend's horrendous story from only a year ago shows that it is STILL being used in response to shoulder dystocias, despite these recommendations. It is time for hospitals to make a concerted educational effort to eliminate its use.

There are other options that work just as well or better than fundal pressure, and with far less risk. Upright positions, fewer epidurals, delayed pushing, more mobility, more patience, and manual rotation are all options to help a labor that is slower than expected. If shoulder dystocia occurs, McRoberts position plus suprapubic pressure resolves most cases; other maneuvers usually resolve the rest. Fundal pressure in a shoulder dystocia only makes the problem worse and often damages the baby or mother.

Although the use of fundal pressure has decreased, more education is obviously needed, both against "routine" fundal pressure during pushing, and particularly against fundal pressure during shoulder dystocia.

With all we know about the risks of fundal pressure and its lack of any real benefit, it is appalling that fundal pressure is still being used during labor or shoulder dystocia in many hospitals around the world. It is clearly a procedure that is outdated and associated with far too many risks.

Unlike our ancestors, we have other options now. There is just no excuse for fundal pressure to still be in such common use in the world today.


Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2005 Sep;60(9):599-603. The role of uterine fundal pressure in the management of the second stage of labor: a reappraisal. Merhi ZO1, Awonuga AO. PMID: 16121114
Among the maneuvers that are used in the second stage of labor, uterine fundal pressure is one of the most controversial. The prevalence of its use is unknown. We reviewed the existing literature to assess whether there is justification for the use of fundal pressure in the contemporary management of the second stage of labor. Only one randomized, controlled study and a few prospective studies, review articles, and case reports have been published. No confirmed benefit of the procedure has been documented and a few adverse events have been reported in association with its use. Alternative management strategies in the second stage of labor exist and should be considered whenever possible. In conclusion, the role of fundal pressure is understudied and remains controversial in the management of the second stage of labor. We believe that caution should be exercised using this maneuver until it is proven to be safe and effective....
MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2001 Mar-Apr;26(2):64-70; quiz 71. Fundal pressure during the second stage of labor. Simpson KR1, Knox GE. PMID: 11265438
The role of fundal pressure during the second stage of labor is controversial and can result in clinical disagreements between nurses and physicians. Clearly the time for resolution of this issue is not when there is a physician request at the bedside in front of the patient. A prospectively agreed upon plan specifying how this request will be addressed is ideal. In order to develop this plan, risks, benefits, and alternative approaches to the use of fundal pressure should be reviewed by an interdisciplinary perinatal team. Much of the data about maternal-fetal injuries related to fundal pressure are not published for medical-legal reasons; however, anecdotal reports suggest that these risks exist. Unfortunately, it is therefore difficult to quantify with any degree of accuracy the exact number of maternal-fetal injuries that are directly related to use of fundal pressure to shorten an otherwise normal second stage of labor. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that if injury does occur when fundal pressure is used, there are significant medical-legal implications for the health care providers involved. This article will review what is currently known about fundal pressure including risks, benefits, and alternative approaches. In that context, suggestions will be offered for a safe approach to managing the second stage of labor.
J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2014 Apr;40(4):946-53. doi: 10.1111/jog.12284. Epub 2014 Jan 15. Fundal pressure during the second stage of labor in a tertiary obstetric center: a prospective analysis. Moiety FM1, Azzam AZ. PMID: 24428496
...This was a prospective observational study set in a tertiary teaching and research obstetric hospital [in Egypt]. A total of 8097 women in labor between 37 and 42 gestational weeks with a singleton cephalic presentation were enrolled. Subjects were subdivided into two groups: fundal pressure group (n=1974 women) and control group (n=6123 women). The primary outcome measure was the duration of the second stage. The secondary outcome measures were maternal outcomes (immediate or delayed) and neonatal outcomes. RESULTS: The prevalence of fundal pressure in our center was 24.38%. Fundal pressure maneuver significantly shortened the duration of the second stage among primiparous women, increased the risk of severe perineal laceration and admission to neonatal intensive care unit in comparison to the non-fundal group. Delayed maternal outcomes showed significant increase in dyspareunia and de novo stress urinary incontinence in the fundal pressure group. CONCLUSION: Although fundal pressure maneuver shortens the duration of the second stage of labor among primiparous women, it should not be used except when indicated, and under strict guidelines owing to its adverse maternal and fetal outcomes.
J Turk Ger Gynecol Assoc. 2010 Jun 1;11(2):95-8. doi: 10.5152/jtgga.2010.07. eCollection 2010. Shortening the second stage of labor? Mahendru R1. PMID: 24591907
...A pilot study comprising 209 primigravidae between 37 and 40 gestational weeks with singleton fetus in cephalic presentation admitted to the delivery suite were considered and were randomly allocated into two groups: I (n=101) and II (n=108), with or without manual fundal pressure, respectively, during the second stage of labor...RESULTS: There were no significant differences in the mean duration of the second stage of labor and secondary outcome measures. Significant adverse findings having no mention in the earlier literature, were noticed which were: one case each of retained placenta and uterine prolapse besides increased evidence of maternal exhaustion and perineal injuries (including one case of complete perineal tear) in the group where fundal pressure was exercised. CONCLUSION: Application of uterine fundal pressure in a delivering woman was not only ineffective in shortening the second stage of labor but added to the risks during parturition.
J Perinat Med. 2015 Mar;43(2):171-5. Intrapartum ultrasound prior to Kristeller maneuver: an observational study. Cuerva MJ, Tobias P, Espinosa JA, Bartha JL. PMID: 25032803
...In this prospective observational study, the station of the fetal head was measured using the angle of progression (intrapartum ultrasound) just prior to the intervention of the managing obstetrician in 52 women with prolonged second stage of labor. The managing obstetricians were blinded to the sonographic results. The decision of performing a Kristeller maneuver was taken by the obstetricians based on digital palpation and their experience...RESULTS: Kristeller maneuver was performed in 36/52 (69.2%) cases. There were no significant differences between the Kristellerand the non-Kristeller group regarding the angle of progression. There were no significant differences between both groups with respect to delivery mode, perineal tears, episiotomy, bleeding, Apgar score, and umbilical artery pH value. CONCLUSIONS: Our study failed to define any criteria followed by obstetricians when performing a Kristeller maneuver in cases of prolonged second stage of labor. There was no relation between the angle of progression and the decision to perform a Kristeller maneuver.
Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2009;88(3):320-4. doi: 10.1080/00016340902730326. The effect of uterine fundal pressure on the duration of the second stage of labor: a randomized controlled trial. Api O1, Balcin ME, Ugurel V, Api M, Turan C, Unal O. PMID: 19172441
...One hundred ninety-seven women between 37 and 42 gestational weeks with singleton cephalic presentation admitted to the delivery unit. METHODS: Random allocation into groups with or without manual fundal pressure during the second stage of labor...CONCLUSION: Application of fundal pressure on a delivering woman was ineffective in shortening the second stage of labor.
Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2009 Nov;280(5):781-6. doi: 10.1007/s00404-009-1015-2. Epub 2009 Mar 5. Use of uterine fundal pressure maneuver at vaginal delivery and risk of severe perineal laceration. Matsuo K1, Shiki Y, Yamasaki M, Shimoya K. PMID: 19263062
...All vaginal delivery records between 1 January 2005 and 30 April 2006 were evaluated...Six hundred sixty-one vaginal deliveries were evaluated. Fundal pressure maneuver was performed in 39 cases (5.9%, 95% CI 4.4-7.1)...One case of shoulder dystocia following uterine fundal pressure maneuver was reported (2.5 vs. 0%). Episiotomy (76.9 vs. 44.9%, P < 0.001) and vacuum extraction (41.0 vs. 3.8%, P < 0.001) were frequently performed with uterine fundal pressure maneuver. Uterine fundal pressure maneuver increased the risk of severe perineal laceration (28.1 vs. 4.8%; odds ratio 2.71, 95% CI 1.03-7.15, P = 0.045). The risk of severe perineal laceration was synergistically increased with the concurrent use of uterine fundal pressure maneuver with vacuum extraction and episiotomy. CONCLUSION: Uterine fundal pressure maneuver during the second stage of labor increased the risk of severe perineal laceration. The use of the maneuver must be cautioned and careful attention must be paid to its application.
J Perinat Med. 2014 Nov 8. pii: /j/jpme.ahead-of-print/jpm-2014-0284/jpm-2014-0284.xml. doi: 10.1515/jpm-2014-0284. [Epub ahead of print] Uterine rupture after the uterine fundal pressure maneuver. Hasegawa J, Sekizawa A, Ishiwata I, Ikeda T, Kinoshita K. PMID: 25389983
...A questionnaire was sent to 2518 institutions in Japan. We received a response from 1430. RESULTS: Of reporting institutions, 89.4% used fundal pressure in at least some of their deliveries. Among the 347,771 women who delivered vaginally in this study, 38,973 (11.2%) were delivered with the assistance of fundal pressure. There were six cases of uterine rupture associated with uterine fundal pressure, with one case resulting in maternal death secondary to amniotic fluid embolism....
Shoulder Dystocia Guidelines
*Historical birth illustrations were taken from the following resources. [Be aware that these books are products of their times and contain outdated attitudes and language]
  • The 1882 book, "Labor Among Primitive Peoples," by Dr. George Engelmann 
  • The illustrations by Georges Devy in "A History of Childbirth of All the People" by G. J. Witkowski (1887) [see the National Library of Medicine website]
**Ginekol Pol. 2008 Apr;79(4):297-300. [Kristeller's procedure--Expressio fetus, its genesis and contemporary application]. [Article in Polish] WaszyƄski E1. PMID: 18592869
The aim of the article is to introduce the original version of Kristeller's procedure - Expressio fetus. The author of the procedure, Samuel Kristeller, was bom in 1820 in Ksiaz Wielkopolski. He worked as a physician in Gniezno, then in Berlin. He is known as the creator of the described procedure - pushing out the foetus...In 1867, Kristeller published a study in which he described a procedure, of which he was the author, of pushing out the foetus (manual assistance), its technique, conditions and recommendations for its application. The main idea of the procedure meant strengthening uterine contractions during labour by massaging the uterus and pressing it many times shortly, towards the long axis of the birth canal. Nowadays this procedure has become warped in its form; there remains also the controversy whether or not to use external force directed on the uterine fundus during labour, due to the risk of intrauterine foetal anoxia and other complications.


Chantal said...

Yep I live in Spain and had this done - im a brit and there Its not accepted at all - so had never heard of it. There was no explanation and no hurry at that point (as far as I was aware) for baby to be born. I had been pushing her fists off me for god knows how long then she said if you let us push a little bit more the baby will come - next minute the crazy bitch was on top of me elbows and all - the scream that came out of me was inhuman- God knows how but I got the strength to push her off - I'm still having nightmares about it tbh 3 months later and having physical problems which I think are related. Still waiting for notes off them and a visit to a decent gyno - hideous hideous practice .

Anonymous said...

I am very sorry to hear that Chantal. As much as we are encourage women empowerment during pregnancy and labour we don't seem to allow it. As a midwife I have been part of some terrible births and my heart goes out to those women who will never fully understand what happened, why and when they could have spoken up against it.

Chantal said...

Thanks for your reply - I spoke out throughout my pregnancy and birth (and in the 2 days after) but in the middle of labour it is nigh on impossible to keep up the fight against being ridiculed and having your human rights violated time and time again (the Kristeller was a small part of it). Hey ho - I've passed it to a lawyer if nothing else they might think twice about doing it someone else. I just really wonder why some people choose this profession.

Laura said...

Light fundal pressure was used for my labor and I'm happy it was done because I had a long hard labor and my pushing alone was not getting the baby out. I had a home birth with a CNM. She used her best judgement and it worked out great. I believe there are times when fundal pressure is a good option for progressing labor, but of course needs to be done with discernment and care.

JAN said...

I had fundal pressure applied during my delivery in 2007 in Italy. I did have an epidural. My son's shoulder was stuck and his collar bone broken during delivery. First they cut me twice to make room then the nurse applied the pressure without warning. I didn't take a breath prior and once the pressure was applied I almost passed out due to lack of air. I was not able to take a breath and started to black out...scared I grabbed the nurse and threw him off me almost tearing out my IV. He was coming back to apply pressure again and I told him not to touch me...I would push on my own! I pushed on my own as hard as I could and he was born. Three to four hours afterwards I had an emergency. I could not breath well and felt like a weight was on my chest. The hospital took blood gas readings and hooked me up to machines. Their explanation was I lost too much blood and wasn't getting enough oxygen. Now after reading about the fundal pressure risks I truely believe that was the cause or a contributing factor of my emergency. In my case. I asked to sit up so I could push better. They ignored my requests and did the fundal pressure. I am shocked that this technique is being used so quickly. It clearly should be a very last resort not a go-to skill.

JAN said...

My experience was similar to yours and I am in Italy. I delivered in 2007. Never wanted to have another child due to the experience. Found out recently it is not authorized for use and hasn't been for a while...yet they still use it in hospitals. Insane! Why can't they just follow the rules.

Anonymous said...

Italian hospitals have also investigated inflatable binders: Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2013 Jan;120(1):78-81. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2012.07.025. Epub 2012 Oct 16.
An inflatable ergonomic 3-chamber fundal pressure belt to assist vaginal delivery.
Acanfora L, Rampon M, Filippeschi M, Marchi M, Montisci M, Viel G, Cosmi E.
I'm the first Author and "THE BELT HAS A CONTROLLED, ERGONOMIC AND MEASURED PRESSURE TO AVOID RISKS AT DELIVERY , RESULTS "Compared with the control group, women in the study group experienced a lower incidence of perineal and cervical lacerations (P<0.001); reduced use of the Kristeller maneuver (P<0.001); shorter duration of the second stage of labor (P<0.001); less psychologic and physical fatigue (P<0.001); fewer maternal requests for cesarean delivery during labor (P<0.001); fewer vacuum extractions (P<0.01); and fewer cesarean deliveries (P<0.02). No neonatal intensive care unit admissions were recorded in the study group versus 7 in the control group (P<0.012).