RESOURCES

My Thoughts on Cervical Exams

Mar 23, 2022
A study in 2020 of over 22,000 women found a strong "direct correlation" between number of vaginal exams during the birth process, and the presence of fever due to infection. The more times someone stuck their hand into a laboring woman's vagina, the more likely she was to experience febrile morbidity.
 
And yet, one of the most common reasons that medical providers use for justifying a vaginal exam is that they need to "ensure progression is happening once your waters are broken, due to heightened risk of infection". Doctors and nurses are comfortable putting an arbitrary timeline of 12 hours on your unfolding of birth to "prevent infection", but they aren't willing to forego literally sticking their hands in your open cervix and inevitably introducing bacteria into it OVER AND OVER again?
 
The irony is, maybe if they didn't finger you during your birth, you might actually have your baby in less than 12 hours.
 
In order for physiological birth to work, a woman *must* feel comfortable and safe. I have never met a woman who described feeling comfortable or safe during a vaginal exam. You and your providers may have come up with all sorts of justifications to make you feel better about getting one - but your body still tenses and shudders at the discomfort during the exam. And that passing moment of tension will cause a wild cascade of hormones telling your body "we are not safe to birth here - time to CLOSE UP".
 
Women's cervixes absolutely cease opening and sometimes even close back up if there are moments of tension, discomfort, fear, anywhere in the body. It is a scientifically proven fact.
 
If you want to have a smooth birth process without intervention - remove *any* moment in your birth plan that causes this discomfort. Vaginal exams, bright lights, talking to strangers, getting in & out of a car, etc.
 
Knowing how "dilated" you are is a highly inaccurate means of knowing how much you have been progressing, and because it is a procedure done with someone's fingers - it is highly subjective. One nurse could read you at 8cm, one nurse could swear you are only at 6cm.
 
You can go from 3cm to 9cm in less than 2 hours.
 
You can hover around 6cm for 8 hours.
 
There is NO research to show that your dilation has anything to do with how well your body is actually progressing.
 
There is no correlation between number of cervical exams and improved birth outcomes such as non-induced/augmented, non-surgical birth, and healthier babies.
 
If they don't do anything to improve your birth outcome...
 
If they cause you pain & discomfort...
 
If they stall your labor...
 
If they are highly correlated with maternal infection...
 
And if they are inaccurate to begin with...
 
WHY are providers still forcing them? WHY are you still accepting them? If you believe that your OB or nurse midwife is practicing "evidence based care", think again mama.
 
 

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