Birth Definitions

Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) Definition


Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) is a medical condition that can occur during pregnancy when the baby’s head is too large to pass through the mother’s pelvis. The pelvis is made up of bones in the hip area. These bones come together at the pubic symphysis, a joint in the front of the pelvis. The pelvic outlet is the space between the bones at this joint. It is also called the birth canal.

The size of a baby’s head and the size of the mother’s pelvis are not always known before labor begins. CPD may be diagnosed when labor starts and the baby’s head does not fit through the mother’s pelvic opening, even after the water has broken and contractions have begun. In some cases, an X-ray or ultrasound may be used to diagnose CPD before labor begins.

CPD is a serious complication of pregnancy that can lead to maternal and infant mortality. In maternal mortality, CPD is a leading cause of death due to hemorrhage, infection, or uterine rupture. Infant mortality from CPD is typically due to asphyxia (lack of oxygen). CPD can also lead to serious complications for both mother and baby, such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and seizure disorders.

There are several risk factors for cephalopelvic disproportion including:

– Obesity

– Diabetes mellitus

– Previous history of C-section

– Large baby (macrosomia)

– Pelvic tumor

– Abnormalities of the uterus or cervix

– Use of certain medications during pregnancy (e.g., progesterone)

This image shows how often the term ‘Cephalopelvic disproportion’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:

Other Related Terms

Terms closely associated with Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) include:

Pelvic floor dysfunction




Not all women with one or more of these risk factors will experience CPD. Conversely, some women who do not have any of these risk factors may still experience CPD. There is no way to prevent CPD from occurring. However, receiving regular prenatal care from a healthcare provider can help detect potential problems early and allow for timely interventions if necessary.

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