Delayed versus immediate pushing in second stage of labor

MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2010 Mar-Apr;35(2):81-8. doi: 10.1097/NMC.0b013e3181cae7ad.


Purpose: Comparison of two different methods for management of second stage of labor: immediate pushing at complete cervical dilation of 10 cm and delayed pushing 90 minutes after complete cervical dilation.

Study design and methods: This study was a randomized clinical trial in a labor and delivery unit of a not-for-profit community hospital. A sample of 44 nulliparous mothers with continuous epidural anesthesia were studied after random assignment to treatment groups. Subjects were managed with either immediate or delayed pushing during the second stage of labor at the time cervical dilation was complete. The primary outcome measure was the length of pushing during second stage of labor. Secondary outcomes included length of second stage of labor, maternal fatigue and perineal injuries, and fetal heart rate decelerations. Two-tailed, unpaired Student's t-tests and Chi-square analysis were used for data analysis. Level of significance was set at p < .01 following a Bonferroni correction for multiple t-tests.

Results: A total of 44 subjects received the study intervention (N = 28 immediate pushing; N = 16 delayed pushing). The delayed pushing group had significantly shorter amount of time spent in pushing compared with the immediate pushing group (38.9 +/- 6.9 vs. 78.7 +/- 7.9 minutes, respectively, p = .002). Maternal fatigue scores, perineal injuries, and fetal heart rate decelerations were similar for both groups.

Clinical implications: Delaying pushing for up to 90 minutes after complete cervical dilation resulted in a significant decrease in the time mothers spent pushing without a significant increase in total time in second stage of labor.In clinical practice, healthcare providers sometimes resist delaying the onset of pushing after second stage of labor has begun because of a belief it will increase labor time. This study's finding of a 51% reduction in pushing time when mothers delay pushing for up to 90 minutes, with no significant increase in overall time for second stage of labor, disputes that concern.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesia, Epidural / methods
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical / methods
  • Delivery, Obstetric / methods*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / nursing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Labor Stage, Second / physiology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Pressure
  • Reference Values
  • Uterine Contraction / physiology*
  • Young Adult