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A Rational and Standardized Prenatal Examination.

IMPORTANCE: As prenatal care is in transition after the COVID-19 pandemic, reviewing fundamental physical examination approaches is necessary for providers examining obstetrical patients.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this review is 3-fold: (1) convey why the age of telemedicine necessitates reconsideration of the standardized physical examination in routine prenatal care; (2) identify the screening efficacy of examination maneuvers used within a standard prenatal examination of the neck, heart, lungs, abdomen, breasts, skin, lower extremities, pelvis, and fetal growth; and (3) propose an evidence-based prenatal physical examination.

EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: A comprehensive literature review identified relevant research, review articles, textbook chapters, databases, and societal guidelines.

RESULTS: We conclude that an evidence-based prenatal examination for asymptomatic patients includes the following maneuvers: inspection and palpation for thyromegaly and cervical lymphadenopathy, cardiac auscultation, fundal height measurement, and a pelvic examination for purposes including testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia, assessing pelvimetry, and assessing cervical dilation later in the pregnancy, intrapartum, or in the setting of ultrasonogram-detected prelabor preterm cervical shortening.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Although not true of all physical examination maneuvers, this article demonstrates that there are maneuvers that continue to play important screening roles in asymptomatic patients. With the increase in virtual visits and fewer in-person prenatal appointments, the rational basis for maneuvers recommended in this review should inform decision making around the prenatal examination performed.

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