Magnetic resonance imaging in late pregnancy to improve labour and delivery outcomes – a systematic literature review

Shireen Jaufuraully*, Brian Dromey, Lisa Story, Anna L. David, George Attilakos, Dimitrios Siassakos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides excellent soft tissue visualisation which may be useful in late pregnancy to predict labour outcome and maternal/neonatal birth trauma. Objective: To study if MRI in late pregnancy can predict maternal and neonatal outcomes of labour and birth. Methods: Systematic review of studies that performed MRI in late pregnancy or immediately postpartum. Studies were included if they imaged maternal pelvic or neonatal structures and assessed birth outcome. Meta-analysis was not performed due to the heterogeneity of studies. Results: Eighteen studies were selected. Twelve studies explored the value of MRI pelvimetry measurement and its utility to predict cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) and vaginal breech birth. Four explored cervical imaging in predicting time interval to birth. Two imaged women in active labour and assessed mouldability of the fetal skull. No marker of CPD had both high sensitivity and specificity for predicting labour outcome. The fetal pelvic index yielded sensitivities between 59 and 60%, and specificities between 34 to 64%. Similarly, although the sensitivity of the cephalopelvic disproportion index in predicting labour outcome was high (85%), specificity was only 56%. In women with breech presentation, MRI was demonstrated to reduce the rates of emergency caesarean section from 35 to 19%, and allowed better selection of vaginal breech birth. Live birth studies showed that the fetal head undergoes a substantial degree of moulding and deformation during cephalic vaginal birth, which is not considered during pelvimetry. There are conflicting studies on the role of MRI in cervical imaging and predicting time interval to birth. Conclusion: MRI is a promising imaging modality to assess aspects of CPD, yet no current marker of CPD accurately predicts labour outcome. With advances in MRI, it is hoped that novel methods can be developed to better identify individuals at risk of obstructed or pathological labour. Its role in exploring fetal head moulding as a marker of CPD should be further explored.

Original languageEnglish
Article number949
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Birth
  • Cephalopelvic disproportion
  • Labour
  • MRI pelvimetry


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