A randomized controlled trial of prophylactic early manual rotation of the occiput posterior fetus at the beginning of the second stage vs expectant management

Am J Obstet Gynecol MFM. 2021 Mar;3(2):100327. doi: 10.1016/j.ajogmf.2021.100327. Epub 2021 Feb 2.


Background: Women whose fetuses are in the occiput posterior head position at the time of delivery are known to have longer second stages of labor and more complicated deliveries including more operative deliveries (cesarean, forceps, or vacuum-assisted delivery) and more third- and fourth-degree lacerations than those whose fetuses are in the occiput anterior position.

Objective: We hypothesized that rotating the fetus at the start of the second stage might decrease these complications.

Study design: At Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, we randomized term (37 weeks or beyond), nulliparous patients with epidurals and a singleton fetus in the occiput posterior position to either attempted early manual rotation to occiput anterior or to a control group managed expectantly. The control group could later be rotated if indicated by the clinical setting. The primary outcome was the length of the second stage of labor. Dichotomous outcomes were compared utilizing the chi-square test, and continuous outcomes were compared utilizing the Student t test or Wilcoxon rank sum test. The sample size estimate was for 64 patients to be randomized (32 in each group) to show a difference of 36 minutes of pushing time between the 2 groups.

Results: We randomized 65 patients (33 to early manual rotation and 32 to control). When we examined a variety of baseline obstetrical characteristics, we found no statistically different values for the 2 groups. The early manual rotation group had a shorter median second stage of labor (65 minutes vs 82 minutes; P=.04).

Conclusion: Early manual rotation of the occiput posterior fetus led to a shorter second stage of labor in this small randomized trial. Future larger randomized trials are needed to validate these findings.

Keywords: arrest of descent; malpresentation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetus
  • Humans
  • Labor Presentation*
  • Obstetric Labor Complications*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rotation
  • Utah
  • Watchful Waiting

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN23995324