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Keywords:

  • second stage of labor;
  • arterial cord pH;
  • prolonged second stage labor;
  • oxygen;
  • fetal cellular injury

Objective. To assess fetal cellular injury arising from oxygen free radical activity in relation to the duration of the second stage of labor.

Patients and methods. Cord arterial pH, malondialdehyde and organic hydroperoxides levels were determined following vaginal delivery of 326 term singleton pregnancies. Of these, 35 (11%) received epidural analgesia. The length of the second stage was recorded from the time of full dilatation to delivery.

Results. Arterial cord pH, malondialdehyde and organic hydroperoxides were significantly correlated with duration of second stage of labor (r= −0.4492; r=0.2542; r=0.2244; respectively, p<0.001). The association of lipid peroxidation products with second stage duration was independent of cord pH. This correlation was unchanged when cases of operative delivery were excluded. However, the relationship lost statistical significance amongst cases who received epidurals.

Conclusions. The duration of the second stage is correlated with raised reactive oxygen species-derived lipid peroxidation products. Caution should be exercised in the management of prolonged second stage of labor.