Mechanisms of normal labour

The seven cardinal movements are the series of positional changes made by the baby which assist its passage through the birth canal. (Cardinal means 'fundamentally important'.) The position before the movements begin is shown in Figure 1.3 (diagram 1) and the seven movements are in diagrams 2 to 8. As you read the descriptions that follow, keep looking at Figure 1.3.

Figure 1.3 The starting position and the seven cardinal movements of the baby as it descends through the birth canal. The small pictures show the position of the baby's head, as if you were looking up the birth canal. (Source: WHO, 2008, Midwifery Education Module: Managing Prolonged and Obstructed Labour, 2nd edn., Figure 1.5, page 23)

The positional changes made by the baby are specific, deliberate and precise. They allow the smallest diameter of the baby to pass through the mother's pelvic cavity. Neither you nor the mother is responsible for these positional changes. The baby has the responsibility for the seven cardinal movements.

Last modified: Monday, 14 July 2014, 11:00 AM