How do midwives facilitate women to give birth during physiological second stage of labour? A systematic review

Maria Healy, Viola Nyman, Dale Spence, René H.J. Otten, Corine J. Verhoeven

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Both nationally and internationally, midwives’ practices during the second stage of labour vary. A midwife’s practice can be influenced by education and cultural practices but ultimately it should be informed by up-to-date scientific evidence. We conducted a systematic review of the literature to retrieve evidence that supports high quality intrapartum care during the second stage of labour. A systematic literature search was performed to September 2019 in collaboration with a medical information specialist. Bibliographic databases searched included: PubMed, EMBASE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), PsycINFO, Maternity and Infant Care Database and The Cochrane Library, resulting in 6,382 references to be screened after duplicates were removed. Articles were then assessed for quality by two independent researchers and data extracted. 17 studies focusing on midwives’ practices during physiological second stage of labour were included. Two studies surveyed midwives regarding their practice and one study utilising focus groups explored how midwives facilitate women’s birthing positions, while another focus group study explored expert midwives’ views of their practice of preserving an intact perineum during physiological birth. The remainder of the included studies were primarily intervention studies, highlighting aspects of midwifery practice during the second stage of labour. The empirical findings were synthesised into four main themes namely: birthing positions, non-pharmacological pain relief, pushing techniques and optimising perineal outcomes; the results were outlined and discussed. By implementing this evidence midwives may enable women during the second stage of labour to optimise physiological processes to give birth. There is, however, a dearth of evidence relating to midwives’ practice, which provides a positive experience for women during the second stage of labour. Perhaps this is because not all midwives’ practices during the second stage of labour are researched and documented. This systematic review provides a valuable insight of the empirical evidence relating to midwifery practice during the physiological second stage of labour, which can also inform education and future research. The majority of the authors were members of the EU COST Action IS1405: Building Intrapartum Research Through Health (BIRTH).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0226502
Pages (from-to)e0226502
Issue number7 July
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

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