Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vaginal Exams, why?

An interesting thing has been happening lately. I've developed an aversion to vaginal exams before labor. Not (only) for myself, but for clients. And why...why...well, that's really the question, isn't it?

Birthing Beautiful Ideas posted beautifully about cervical checks
before labor being regarded as some sort of magic 8 ball, giving mysterious information that could, if you interpret it correctly, let you know when your labor will start. Unfortunately, I think that's true. And you know what? magic 8 balls are lousy at predicting the future. So are cervices.
Thanks to Flickr user Andres Rueda for this image / CC BY-ND 2.0

I like this post too, from Robin Elise Weiss, LCCE on The Myth of the Vaginal Exam. We really don't learn that much from prelabor checks, and even in labor, the cervix can do interesting things. It can reverse dilation, it can refuse to budge for hours during hard labor and then suddenly open like the stargate on SG1.

We can consult our magic 8 ball cervix, but that doesn't mean the information is that useful, especially before labor starts. And we all know the risks of repeated vaginal exams, right? Infection, infection, infection.

Next, Vaginal exams, if we're going to do them, how should they be done?


  1. Sarah-
    I have to say that during my last pregnancy and birth I did not have 1 single vaginal exam. Not at the beginning of my pregnancy, not toward the end, not during labor, not even before I pushed to 'make sure' I was complete. I LOVED it. I felt so much more trust from my midwives. And the birth was completely perfect...
    I enjoy your blog, btw. :-)

  2. So true. My precepter rarely does VE's unless there is a particular indication or if the mom requests. At our last birth, we stopped in and did one at mom's request - 4cm. She proceded to go from 4cm to birth in about an hour, her fastest labour by far!

  3. I found a lot of empowerment in my 6th pregnancy when I checked myself. If I wanted to know information, I could get it. I didn't have to rely on someone else to tell me what my body was doing. My favorite was when I didn't have any exams. But it was awesome to call my midwife and tell HER how far dilated and effaced I was.