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How long is too long: Does a prolonged second stage of labor in nulliparous women affect maternal and neonatal outcomes?

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to examine maternal and neonatal outcomes in relation to lengthening intervals of the second stage of labor.

STUDY DESIGN: This is a retrospective cohort study of 15,759 nulliparous, term, cephalic, singleton births at the University of California, San Francisco, between 1976 and 2001. The second stage of labor was divided into 1-hour intervals. Maternal and neonatal outcomes were compared with the use of chi-squared and Student t tests, and a probability value of < or =.05 was used to indicate statistical significance. Potential confounders were controlled for with multivariate logistic regression.

RESULTS: Increasing rates of cesarean delivery, operative vaginal delivery, and perineal trauma were associated with the second stage beyond the first hour. In multivariate analysis, the >4-hour interval group had higher rates of cesarean delivery (odds ratio, 5.65; P < .001), operative vaginal deliveries (odds ratio, 2.83; P < .001), 3rd- or 4th-degree perineal lacerations (odds ratio, 1.33; P = .009), and chorioamnionitis (odds ratio, 1.79; P < .001). There were no differences in neonatal acid-base status associated with length of second stage. However, there were fewer neonates with a 5-minute Apgar score of <7 (odds ratio, 0.45; P = .01).

CONCLUSION: Although the length of the second stage of labor is not associated with poor neonatal outcome, a prolonged second stage is associated with increased maternal morbidity and operative delivery rates.

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