Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Cardiac output during labour.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 07 November 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:1169
  1. S C Robson,
  2. W Dunlop,
  3. R J Boys,
  4. S Hunter
  1. University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.


    Serial measurements of cardiac output and mean arterial pressure were performed in 15 women during the first stage of labour and at one and 24 hours after delivery. Cardiac output was measured by Doppler and cross sectional echocardiography at the pulmonary valve. Basal cardiac output (between uterine contractions) increased from a prelabour mean of 6.99 l/min to 7.88 l/min at greater than or equal to 8 cm of cervical dilatation as a result of an increase in stroke volume. Over the same period basal mean arterial pressure also increased. During uterine contractions there was a further increase in cardiac output as a result of increases in both stroke volume and heart rate. The increment in cardiac output during contractions became progressively greater as labour advanced. At greater than or equal to 8 cm of dilatation cardiac output increased from a basal mean of 7.88 l/min to 10.57 l/min during contractions. There were also further increases in mean blood pressure during contractions. One hour after delivery heart rate and cardiac output had returned to prelabour values, though mean arterial pressure and stroke volume remained raised. By 24 hours after delivery all haemodynamic variables had returned to prelabour values. Haemodynamic changes of the magnitude found in this series are of considerable clinical relevance in managing mothers with complicated cardiovascular function.