Written by Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD
The term 'cephalopelvic disproportion' implies disproportion between the head of the baby ('cephalus') and the mother's pelvis.
Complications can occur if the fetal head is too large to pass thorugh the mother's pelvis or birth canal. This can be because of a small pelvis and an average sized fetus, a large baby with an average sized pelvis or because of malposition of teh fetal head.
CPD is one of the commonest cause of different complications in labor, including prolonged labor, fetal distress, and delayed second stage .
Cephalo-pelvic disproportion (CPD) is very frequently diagnosed and is a very common indication of cesarian sections, especially when there is failure to progress in labor.
But it is very difficult to diagnose CPD before a women has started her labor pains since it is very difficult to anticipate how well the fetal head and the maternal pelvis will adjust and mould to each other.
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Diagnosis of CPD is very difficult. This is because it is difficult to estimate exactly how much the mother's ligaments and joints will 'give' or relax before labor starts.
The fetal head also has a great capacity to mould - the skull bones can overlap to some extent and decrease the diameter of the head. So, a baby who appears to be too big to pass through its mother's birth passage before labor, may do so without much problem when active uterine contractions start.
A 'trial of labour' should always be given to all women with average sized pelvis and an average sized fetus even if the pelvis appears apparently too small for the baby.
An estimation of the size of the pelvis can be made by two methods:
The entire bony arch of the mother's pelvis, including the sacrum , the sacro-coccygeal joint, the sacro-sciatic notch, the ischial spines, the ilio-pectineal lines and the pubic arch are palpated and an assessment of the size of the pelvis made. The diameter of the pelvis is measured with the index and middle fingers of the hand.
However, women who have an average sized baby and and an average sized pelvis or even women in whom vaginal delivery is doubtful, should always be offered a 'trial of labor'.
If, after sufficient time has passed in labor without a delivery, and symptoms of prolonged labor or fetal distress begins to develop, a cesarian section needs to be carried out.
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