Cephalic presentation

From WikiMD's Wellness Encyclopedia

Cephalic presentation refers to the orientation of a fetus during labor and delivery, where the head is the first part to enter the maternal pelvis. This head-first position is considered the most common and safest position for vaginal birth.

Cephalic presentation - right occipito-transverse

Anatomy and Physiology of Fetal Presentation[edit | edit source]

The fetal presentation is determined by the part of the fetus that is positioned at the lowest part in the uterus, known as the presenting part. This is usually influenced by the size, attitude (posture), and lie (the long axis of the fetus in relation to the long axis of the mother) of the fetus.

In cephalic presentation, the fetal head becomes engaged within the maternal pelvis and is typically flexed such that the chin is touching the chest. This is also known as a vertex presentation.

Types of Cephalic Presentation[edit | edit source]

There are several types of cephalic presentations, classified based on the position of the fetal head:

  • Vertex Presentation: The most common type where the fetus’s head is fully flexed.
  • Military Presentation: The fetal head is neither flexed nor extended, resembling a soldier standing at attention.
  • Brow Presentation: The fetal head is partially extended.
  • Face Presentation: The fetal head is fully extended, and the face is the presenting part.

Determining Fetal Presentation[edit | edit source]

Healthcare providers typically determine the fetal presentation through a physical examination, specifically a Leopold's Maneuver, during prenatal visits. This assessment allows the provider to feel for the baby’s head, back, and buttocks.

Additionally, ultrasound imaging is another accurate tool used to confirm the baby's position, especially in situations where the physical examination findings are unclear.

Clinical Significance of Cephalic Presentation[edit | edit source]

A cephalic presentation is generally a favorable position for labor and delivery as it allows for the largest part of the fetus (the head) to dilate the cervix and pass through the birth canal first, which facilitates the subsequent passage of the rest of the body.

If the fetus is not in a cephalic presentation as labor approaches, it may lead to complications such as prolonged labor, fetal distress, or the need for a cesarean section. In such cases, a healthcare provider may attempt an external cephalic version (ECV), a procedure that manually manipulates the fetus into a head-down position.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Understanding the cephalic presentation is essential for healthcare professionals, particularly those involved in obstetric care. It plays a vital role in managing labor and delivery effectively and ensuring the safety of both mother and baby.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Cunningham, F. G., Leveno, K. J., Bloom, S. L., Spong, C. Y., Dashe, J. S., Hoffman, B. L., ... & Sheffield, J. S. (2014). Williams obstetrics (24th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
  • Simkin, P., Whalley, J., Keppler, A., Durham, J., & Bolding, A. (2018). Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide. Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press.
  • Moore, K. L., Persaud, T. V., & Torchia, M. G. (2016). Before we are born: Essentials of embryology and birth defects. Elsevier Health Sciences.
Cephalic presentation Resources

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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD