To evaluate the influence of intrapartum persistent occiput posterior position of the fetal head on delivery outcome and anal sphincter injury, with reference to the association with epidural analgesia.
We conducted a prospective observational study of 246 women with persistent occiput posterior position in labor during a 2-year period, compared with 13,543 contemporaneous vaginal deliveries with occiput anterior position.
The incidence of persistent occiput posterior position was significantly greater among primiparas (2.4%) than multiparas (1.3%; P<.001; 95% confidence interval 1.4, 2.4) and was associated with significantly higher incidences of prolonged pregnancy, induction of labor, oxytocin augmentation of labor, epidural use, and prolonged labor. Only 29% of primiparas and 55% of multiparas with persistent occiput posterior position achieved spontaneous vaginal delivery, and the malposition was associated with 12% of all cesarean deliveries performed because of dystocia. Persistent occiput posterior position was also associated with a sevenfold higher incidence of anal sphincter disruption. Despite a high overall incidence of use of epidural analgesia (47% versus 3%), the institutional incidence of persistent occiput posterior position was lower than that reported 25 years ago.
Persistent occiput posterior position contributed disproportionately to cesarean and instrumental delivery, with fewer than half of the occiput posterior labors ending in spontaneous delivery and the position accounting for 12% of all cesarean deliveries for dystocia. Persistent occiput posterior position leads to a sevenfold increase in the incidence of anal sphincter injury. Use of epidural analgesia was not related to the malposition.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University College Dublin and the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.