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Repeat Digital Cervical Assessment in Pregnancy for Identifying Women at Risk of Preterm Labour

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181f022d0
Departments: Cochrane Update

BACKGROUND: Repeat digital cervical assessment (RDCA - examination of the cervix with a finger) has been promoted as a routine intervention in the antenatal clinic as a screening test for the risk of preterm birth (that is, birth occurring before 37 weeks of gestation).

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of repeat digital cervical assessment during pregnancy for the risk of preterm birth and other adverse effects for mother and baby.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Child birth Group's Trials Register (September 2009) and CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library 2009, Issue 3).

SELECTION CRITERIA: All known randomized clinical trials comparing repeat digital cervical assessment with internal examination limited to clinical indication or no internal examination. We have not included studies where repeat cervical assessment is only a component of complex interventions targeted at decreasing preterm birth.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We evaluated relevant studies for meeting the inclusion criteria and methodological quality without considering their results. Three review authors extracted the data. For all data analyses, we entered data based on the principle of intention to treat. We calculated odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals for dichotomous data.

MAIN RESULTS: We included two trials that enrolled a total of 7163 women. Preterm birth before 37 weeks, was reported in both trials. The odds ratio for birth before 37 weeks was 1.05 (95% (CI) 0.85 to 1.31; two trials, 6070 women). One trial (involving 5836 women) found no significant difference between the two treatment arms for the following outcomes: preterm birth before 34 weeks; preterm, prelabour rupture of membranes; hospital admission before 37 weeks; caesarean section; use of tocolytic drugs; low birthweight; very low birthweight, stillbirth, neonatal death, neonatal intensive care admissions; use of health services. The other prespecified outcomes were not evaluated in the included studies. We did not conduct the planned subgroup analyses due to insufficient data.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSION: We found no evidence to support the use of RDCA in pregnancy to reduce the prevalence of preterm birth. We have found insufficient evidence to assess adverse effects of the intervention.

Abstracts from Cochrane Reviews that relate to the practice of obstetrics and gynecology

Address correspondence to: Melissa L. Gilliam, MD, MPH, University of Chicago, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5841 S. Maryland Ave, MC 2050, Chicago, Illinois, 60637; e-mail:

Cochrane Reviews are regularly updated as new evidence emerges and in response to feedback, and the Cochrane Library ( should be consulted for the most recent version of the review.

© 2010 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.