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#40: How Many Cervical Exams Do I Need During Labor? A Mindful Approach to Cervical Exams




Today, I want to share with you a mindful approach to cervical exams during labor. This is a topic that can bring up a lot of questions and concerns for expecting parents, so I hope this will help you navigate this aspect of labor with confidence and clarity. 


In this episode, we dive into the following:

  • What are cervical exams?

  • What information can you get beyond dilation with a cervical exam?

  • When do you “need” a cervical exam?

  • Does a cervical exam tell you how much longer labor will last?

  • The pros and cons of cervical exams

  • How to make a choice about cervical exams that feels right to YOU


Listen to the podcast now:



Welcome back to another episode of the Mindful Womb Podcast. Today, I want to share with you a mindful approach to cervical exams during labor. This is a topic that can bring up a lot of questions and concerns for expecting parents, so I hope this will help you navigate this aspect of labor with confidence and clarity.


What Are Cervical Exams?

Cervical exams, also known as cervical checks, are manual examinations performed by a medical professional. They involve inserting one or two gloved, lubricated fingers into the vagina to check the progress of your labor. During a cervical exam, your provider will assess a few key factors:

  1. Dilation: How much your cervix has opened, measured on a scale from 0 to 10 centimeters.

  2. Effacement: How thin your cervix is becoming, on a scale from 0 to 100%.

  3. Position: The location of your cervix, which may move from a higher, posterior position to a lower, anterior position as labor progresses.

  4. Consistency: Whether your cervix is soft and flexible, as it should be nearing the end of labor.

  5. Baby’s Position: The location of your baby's head, which can indicate how far the baby has descended and how they are oriented in the pelvis.


Understanding Cervical Exams

Cervical exams can provide useful information about the progress of your labor, but they are not a perfect measure of how long labor will last or how it will progress. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Non-linear Progress: Labor doesn't always progress in a linear fashion. For example, you could be at 6 centimeters for a while and then suddenly progress to pushing within a short amount of time.

  • Your Choice: Cervical exams are optional. You have the right to decline them if they are not comfortable for you or if you prefer to labor with minimal interventions.

  • Mindset Matters: Knowing your dilation can impact your mindset during labor. If you feel you may get discouraged or fixated on the numbers, you can choose to skip the exam or ask not to be told the results.



Pros and Cons of Cervical Exams

Pros:

  • Can provide information about the progress of labor.

  • May guide decisions around induction or pain management.

  • Can assess baby's position and identify potential complications.



Cons:

  • Can be physically and emotionally uncomfortable.

  • Risk of infection, especially if waters have broken.

  • May lead to unnecessary stress if progress is slower than expected.


Making Informed Decisions

When considering whether to have cervical exams during labor, reflect on your own preferences and how the information might impact your experience. Think about how you would feel if you were told certain information and how that might affect your mental state. You can always ask your provider for all the details of the exam, not just dilation.


Trusting Yourself

Above all, trust your body and your instincts during labor. Your mind is a powerful tool that can influence your birth experience. If you're feeling overwhelmed or uncertain about cervical exams, seek support and education to help you make the decisions that are best for you.


Remember, you are the expert on your own body. I hope this helps you feel more confident and informed about cervical exams during labor. Let’s continue the conversation about childbirth and explore all the ways to prepare for an empowered birth experience!



 

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