"Let me check you to see where you're at" is something we hear all too often from our care providers. But is checking the cervix doing more harm than good? Do we really need to "see" how far along we have come in our labors? Cervical exams are OPTIONAL!
What is a cervical exam?
Your provider inserts two fingers into the vagina to see how far the cervix has dilated (The cervix is the portal in between the vagina and the womb).
What are some reasons your provider may want to check your cervix?
1) To see how effaced and dilated you are
2) To see if you've come to the hospital or birth center too early
3) Are you close to being fully dilated?
4) Is there any cervix left before pushing?
5) Is there anything we need to know about baby's position?
Cervical checks CANNOT tell you:
1) How soon your baby will be born
2) How much laboring you still have to do
3) Whether or not you will have a vaginal birth
One of the main concerns with cervical exams is that there is room for bacteria to enter the vagina and womb. Bacteria can sometimes lead to maternal infection or fever, and can eventually reach your baby. Cervical exams can simultaneously be helpful or hurtful mentally. If you have been laboring for a long time and your provider tells you you're only 3 cm dilated, this can be discouraging! On the other end of the coin, if they tell you you're at a 9, it may be the boost of motivation you need to keep going. But the numbers don't really matter! Just because you are 3 cm dilated now and have been laboring for 6 hours, doesn't mean you won't be fully dilated and ready to push your baby out within an hour or two.
The most important thing is to have the proper support system (your partner and doula) and to relax your mind and body as much as possible. Let your body do it's beautiful damn thing!