BACKGROUND: Uterine fundal pressure involves a birth attendant pushing on the woman’s uterine fundus to assist vaginal birth. It is used in some clinical settings, though guidelines recommend against it. This systematic review aimed to determine the prevalence of uterine fundal pressure during the second stage of labour for women giving birth vaginally at health facilities. METHODS: The population of interest were women who experienced labour in a health facility and in whom vaginal birth was anticipated. The primary outcome was the use of fundal pressure during second stage of labour. MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and Global Index Medicus databases were searched for eligible studies published from 1 January 2000 onwards. Meta-analysis was conducted to determine a pooled prevalence, with subgroup analyses to explore heterogeneity. RESULTS: Eighty data sets from 76 studies (n = 898,544 women) were included, reporting data from 22 countries. The prevalence of fundal pressure ranged from 0.6% to 69.2% between studies, with a pooled prevalence of 23.2% (95% CI 19.4-27.0, I(2) = 99.97%). There were significant differences in prevalence between country income level (p < 0.001, prevalence highest in lower-middle income countries) and method of measuring use of fundal pressure (p = 0.001, prevalence highest in studies that measured fundal pressure based on women’s self-report). CONCLUSIONS: The use of uterine fundal pressure on women during vaginal birth in health facilities is widespread. Efforts to prevent this potentially unnecessary and harmful practice are needed.
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