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Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1998 Dec;105(12):1262-72.

A randomised controlled trial of care of the perineum during second stage of normal labour.

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National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Oxford, UK.



To compare the effect of two methods of perineal management used during spontaneous vaginal delivery on the prevalence of perineal pain reported at 10 days after birth.


Randomised controlled trial.


Two English maternity care units.


5471 women who gave birth between December 1994 and December 1996.


At the end of the second stage of labour women were allocated to either the 'hands on' method, in which the midwife's hands put pressure on the baby's head and support ('guard') the perineum; lateral flexion is then used to facilitate delivery of the shoulders, or the 'hands poised' method, in which the midwife keeps her hands poised, not touching the head or perineum, allowing spontaneous delivery of the shoulders.


Perineal pain in the previous 24 hours reported by women in self-administered questionnaire 10 days after birth.


Questionnaires were completed by 97% of women at 10 days after birth. 910 (34.1%) women in the 'hands poised' group reported pain in the previous 24 hours compared with 823 (31.1%) in the 'hands on' group (RR 1.10, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.18: absolute difference 3%, 0.5% to 5%, P = 0.02). The rate of episiotomy was significantly lower in the 'hands poised' group (RR 0.79, 99% CI 0.65 to 0.96, P = 0.008) but the rate of manual removal of placenta was significantly higher (RR 1.69, 99% CI 1.02 to 2.78; P = 0.008). There were no other statistically significant differences detected between the two methods.


The reduction in pain observed in the 'hands on' group was statistically significant and the difference detected potentially affects a substantial number of women. These results provide evidence to enable individual women and health professionals to decide which perineal management is preferable.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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