Abdominal decompression in normal pregnancy

  • Review
  • Intervention

Authors

  • G Justus Hofmeyr,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of the Witwatersrand, University of Fort Hare, Eastern Cape Department of Health, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, East London Hospital Complex, East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa
    • G Justus Hofmeyr, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, East London Hospital Complex, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Fort Hare, Eastern Cape Department of Health, Frere and Cecilia Makiwane Hospitals, Private Bag X 9047, East London, Eastern Cape, 5200, South Africa. justhof@gmail.com.

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  • Regina Kulier

    1. Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Geneva, Switzerland
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Abstract

Background

Abdominal decompression was developed as a means of pain relief during labour. It has also been used for complications of pregnancy, and in healthy pregnant women in an attempt to improve fetal wellbeing and intellectual development.

Objectives

The objective of this review was to assess the effects of prophylactic abdominal decompression on pregnancy outcomes such as admission for pre-eclampsia, fetal growth, perinatal morbidity and mortality and childhood development.

Search methods

We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (June 2009).

Selection criteria

Randomised trials comparing abdominal decompression with dummy decompression or no treatment in healthy pregnant women.

Data collection and analysis

Both review authors assessed eligibility and trial quality.

Main results

Three studies were included. There was no difference between the abdominal decompression groups and the control groups for low birthweight (risk ratio (RR) 0.69, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.27 to 1.77) and perinatal mortality (RR 2.47, 95% CI 0.77 to 7.92). There were no differences in admission for pre-eclampsia, Apgar score and childhood development.

Authors' conclusions

There is no evidence to support the use of abdominal decompression in normal pregnancies. Future research should be directed towards the use of abdominal decompression during labour, and during complicated pregnancies.

Plain language summary

Abdominal decompression in normal pregnancy

Abdominal decompression is a procedure during which a negative pressure is applied intermittently to a pregnant woman's abdomen, enclosed within an airtight frame. It is thought to improve the mother's blood flow to the placenta, and during labour to relieve pain. The review of three studies of abdominal decompression used for healthy pregnant women found no benefits with respect to high blood pressure in the mother nor the newborn baby's condition and subsequent intellectual development. Avenues for further research remain.