Symphysis-fundal height measurement in pregnancy

Too little evidence to show whether measuring the height of the pregnant belly at antenatal visits leads to better outcomes.

Many pregnant women have the distance from the lowest part of their uterus (womb) (near the pubic bone) to the highest part of their uterus measured with a tape measure (symphysis fundal height). Their caregiver may also feel and gently press the outside of the woman's pregnant uterus (abdominal palpation). This is to check the baby's size and position, the quantity of fluid around the baby and to diagnose multiple pregnancy. The review found that there is too little evidence to show whether symphysis fundal height measurement during pregnancy is more beneficial than abdominal palpation. Further research is needed.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is not enough evidence to evaluate the use of symphysis-fundal height measurements during antenatal care.

Read the full abstract...

In many settings, symphysis-fundal height measurement has replaced clinical assessment of fetal size by abdominal palpation because the latter has been reported to perform poorly.


The objective of this review was to assess the effects of routine use of symphysis-fundal height measurements (tape measurement of the distance from the pubic symphysis to the uterine fundus) during antenatal care on pregnancy outcome.

Search strategy: 

Comprehensive electronic search of the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group trials register (August 2002).

Selection criteria: 

Acceptably controlled trials comparing symphysis-fundal height measurement with assessment by abdominal palpation alone.

Data collection and analysis: 

One reviewer assessed trial quality and extracted data.

Main results: 

One trial involving 1639 women was included. No obvious differences were detected in any of the outcomes measured.