So many fingers…only one cervix

Cervical checks. Medical professionals love to perform them. I mean…they MUST love it, right? They do A LOT of them.

Consider the last several weeks of your pregnancy up until your baby is born. Week 36 your doctor checks you. Week 37 your doctor checks you. Week 38 your doctor checks you. Every week up until you birth your baby. Let’s say, for the sake of the example, that you are having your beautiful bundle at the hospital. You walk into the hospital in labor, they set you up to your monitors, and a nurse checks you. She confirms you’re in labor (as if you didn’t know that already), probably calls your doctor and he comes in 30 minutes later to check you again. They continue to let you labor. A couple of hours later the nurse comes in and wants to “see where you’re at” and checks you again. One hour later: shift change. A new nurse comes in an hour after shift change and does a round of vitals and then guess what? SHE checks you too, just to see how you’re progressing. Two hours go by, you’re feeling pushy and your support person goes to tell the nurse that you are feeling pushy, but she is attending to another mama, so a different nurse comes in. She wants to make sure that you’re “ready to push” by checking you…again. Not quite ready yet… have a small “lip” left. She tells you that in a couple of contractions she will check you to see if the lip is gone. 2-3 contractions come and go and she checks you yet again, you’re complete. Time to push.

So, from the time you’re 36 weeks you have had someones hands inside of your vagina a MINIMUM of 10 times and a MINIMUM of 4 different people. That is a lot of fingers, and a lot of people. All up in your business.

The question is… is it necessary??

First, cervical dilation is extremely subjective. When more than one person checks your cervix with different sized hands and fingers, they are inevitably going to get different “readings.” A nurse with small fingers may find that you are 4 cm dilated. Whereas your doctor, with larger fingers, may find that you are a stretchy 3.

Secondly, dilation before the onset of active labor can not tell you how soon you will go into labor. It is not at all unusual to dilate or efface well before you go into labor. Women can walk around at 3 centimeters for weeks before labor begins. In the same token, a woman can go from high and tight to active labor a day later.

Lastly, every cervix and course of labor is different. Hospitals seem to want to put you on this timeline. If you are not progressing in X amount of time your body is doing it wrong and you need help. However, the reality is that your body knows best! Your body is putting baby into the perfect position for you, your body is allowing baby to transition to earth in the perfect timing,  your body and baby know how fast to dilate your cervix, and when the time is right your body will cue you in to when to push, the feeling is undeniable and the urge is intrinsic.

Cervical checks come naturally to the medical community, and it has been become accepted as the norm amongst their patients. However, the choice is yours…it always is.

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