Foetal Station during Labour & Delivery: Chart, Pros & Cons

Foetal Station During Labour & Delivery

As you progress in your pregnancy and you are closer to the date of delivery or your due date, you may come across the term ‘Foetal Station’ more often. Well, this term is used by the doctors to check how far along your baby is making progress in the birthing canal during the labour. If you wish to know more about the foetal station, how it is measured, are there any foetal station charts and other aspects of this topic, read below for more information.

What Is Foetal Station?

Foetal station or baby station is a term used to describe how far your baby has descended in your pelvis. The foetal station is determined by establishing the relation between your baby’s head and your sit bones or ischial spine. The ischial spines or sit bones, which are approximately 3 to 4 centimetres inside your vagina, are used as a reference point for measuring the foetal station of the foetal head by your doctor. Your doctor will assign points ranging from 5 to -5 to tell where the baby’s head or ‘presenting part’ or the part that shows first during delivery (it is usually the head of the baby but sometimes it can be toes or other parts too) is located.

How Foetal Station is Measured

Here is how your doctor can help in determining or measuring foetal station:

  • Your doctor uses a determining point in your pelvis, which is your ischial spines, to establish the location of your baby’s presenting part or foetal station during labour.
  • This landmark point or determining factor helps your doctor to know how far your baby has come down or descended into your pelvis. This means that your doctor uses this point to establish whether the baby is in a floating position, head above the pelvis, fully engaged, beginning to the crown, or crowning.
  • The foetal station is measured in centimetres with ischial spines as the reference line and it is measured 5 centimetres above and 5 centimetres below this reference line. However, the foetal station is measured in numbers ranging from 5 to -5 numbers and not in centimetres.
  • Your foetal station measurement is a great indicator for your doctor or health care provider to start preparing for the birthing process or delivery.

foetal station

Foetal Station Chart

Foetal station chart is an important parameter to ascertain the progress of the baby through the birth canal and most gynaecologists use this an important tool to avoid the use of forceps during the delivery until or unless the baby has made considerable progress in the pelvis. Where most doctors establish foetal head stations in pregnancy on the scale of 5 to -5, there are some doctors that may use a 3 to -3 scale too. The following chart showcases the basic landmarks used for describing foetal station:

The Score What Does It Mean
The score between -5 to 0 Also known as floating, the baby’s ‘presenting part’ is above the ischial spine at this stage. In some cases, the doctor may not feel the presenting part at this station.
The zero station At this stage, the baby’s head is aligned or engaged in the ischial spines.
The score between 0 to 5 When the score becomes positive, it is an indication that the baby has come further down the pelvis and descended beyond the ischial spines.

Source: Healthline

The difference in numbers is in centimetres. For example, the difference between 5 to 4 or -5 or -4 is 1 centimetre and so on.

It is also important to note here that the foetal station and bishop score are very important parameters to help the doctor in ascertaining how well the labour is progressing. The foetal station is an integral part of counting bishop score, which helps the doctor in determining whether you will have a vaginal birth or a cesarean delivery. Apart from the foetal station, dilation, effacement of the cervix, consistency of the cervix and baby’s position are important components in calculating the bishop’s score. Different points are assigned to these factors and your doctor calculates the points to see if you are a fit candidate for vaginal delivery or not. A score of 8 or higher is a good indicator, whereas 3 or less means vaginal delivery is quite unlikely.

Pros of Foetal Station

The foetal station is an important factor and is beneficial to the doctors to check how well your labour is progressing. Here are some pros of measuring foetal station:

  • The foetal station is determined by conducting a cervical examination, which is not only a fast procedure but also painless for the pregnant woman.
  • This is one the safest and convenient ways for establishing how far has the baby reached down the birthing canal and also one of the most widely popular methods for establishing foetal station and engagement.
  • Your doctor may alternatively use imaging tools such as an ultrasound machine to establish your baby’s position in your pelvis. This method is also as effective as cervical examination to establish the foetal position.

foetal station baby

Cons of Foetal Station

Apart from various pros of measuring foetal station, there are certain drawbacks of this procedure that cannot be undermined and should be considered. The following are some cons of measuring foetal station:

  • The results may not be accurate and sometimes different doctors may come up with different results.
  • Every doctor may use different measurements or subjective measurements for establishing foetal station according to where they think the ischial spines are.
  • The doctor may want to conduct frequent vaginal exams during the labour to measure the foetal station. This may increase the chances of vaginal infection or other such kinds of infections.
  • Pelvis appearance can be different in some women, which means some women may have a shorter pelvis, which may make the judgment of foetal station difficult or complex for the doctor.
  • Sometimes the shape of the baby’s head may make the doctor think that baby is further down in the birthing canal but that may not be the case.

There is no doubt that foetal station measurement in one of the important parameters in helping the doctor about how successfully your labour is moving. Other considerations that your doctor may look into are your cervical dilation, or how enlarged your cervical opening is. If your doctor thinks that the labour is not progressing as expected or there are any other probable complications, your doctor may either go in for a vacuum or forceps delivery option. And in some cases where none of these methods may come useful, the doctor may suggest cesarean delivery.

Foetal station measurement is a term that you may not hear until the last few weeks of your pregnancy or in some cases, women may come to know about this term during labour only. When you are in labour, your foetal station measurement may help your doctor in knowing how well the progression of labour is happening. Your labour can start even your baby is high in your pelvis. For example at station -2, but for other women, labour may begin a 0 station, which means that the baby has engaged in the pelvis or even lower than that. Positive numbers in the foetal station can be an indication that you are closer to delivery or giving birth. Also, the station starts changing as soon as you start pushing during the labour.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that foetal station measurements can vary slightly from one doctor to another, which means that results can be imprecise. However, most doctors use this tool effectively in knowing about labour progression. You can get in touch with your doctor if you have any more concerns regarding the foetal station.

Also Read:

Stages of Labour & Childbirth
Interventions during Labour and Childbirth
Positions to Try during Labour and Childbirth

Previous article «
Next article »
Gauri Ratnam completed her Masters in English Literature from the University of Pune. She began her journey as a German translator soon after completing her graduation, but later moved on to pursue her passion for writing. Having written for both digital and print media in a varied range of industries, she has the ability to write relatable and well-researched content, benefical for anyone seeking advice or direction.