Symphysial fundal height (SFH) measurement in pregnancy for detecting abnormal fetal growth

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Jul 11;(7):CD008136. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008136.pub2.


Background: Symphysis fundal height (SFH) measurement is commonly practiced primarily to detect fetal intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Undiagnosed IUGR may lead to fetal death as well as increase perinatal mortality and morbidity.

Objectives: The objective of this review is to compare SFH measurement with serial ultrasound measurement of fetal parameters or clinical palpation to detect abnormal fetal growth (IUGR and large-for-gestational age), and improving perinatal outcome.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (20 January 2012) and reference lists of retrieved articles.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials including quasi-randomised and cluster-randomised trials involving pregnant women with singleton fetuses at 20 weeks' gestation and above comparing tape measurement of SFH with serial ultrasound measurement of fetal parameters or clinical palpation using anatomical landmarks.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed trials for inclusion, trial quality and extracted data. Data were checked for accuracy.

Main results: One trial involving 1639 women was included. It compared SFH measurement with clinical abdominal palpation.There was no difference in the two reported primary outcomes of incidence of small-for-gestational age (risk ratio (RR) 1.32; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.92 to 1.90) or perinatal death. There was no difference in the reported secondary outcomes of neonatal hypoglycaemia, admission to neonatal nursery, admission to the neonatal nursery for IUGR, induction of labour and caesarean section.

Authors' conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to determine whether SFH measurement is effective in detecting IUGR. We cannot therefore recommended any change of current practice. Further trials are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Palpation / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pubic Symphysis / anatomy & histology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal
  • Uterus / anatomy & histology*