Are Cervical Checks Necessary During Labor?

Are Cervical Checks Necessary During Labor?

Throughout your pregnancy, cervical checks have likely become a familiar part of your regular gynecological visits. However, as the birth of your baby draws near, you may question the necessity of a cervical exam during labor. 

Cervical checks during pregnancy and labor are essential. Whether manually or speculum-assisted, these examinations allow your doctor to track the progress of your pregnancy and labor and ensure your safety and that of your baby.

Understanding what happens during this routine procedure can alleviate anxiety, providing a more comfortable and empowering labor experience.

What Happens During a Cervical Check During Labor?

In the last few weeks of pregnancy, your body experiences many changes as the baby moves lower into the pelvis and hormones prepare for cervical dilation. You may feel overwhelmed or excited and part of this could include wondering what is done during a pelvic exam during labor and delivery. 

During labor, your provider examines the cervix to assess its position, firmness and dilation. Your OB/GYN typically uses gloved fingers or a speculum to perform this exam, allowing them to assess how your body is preparing for labor. 

They feel the cervix to see if it is softening, thinning out (effacing) and opening (dilating). This helps them monitor your labor, estimate a potential delivery time and ensure you receive timely and appropriate care for a healthy delivery.

Why is a Cervical Check Necessary During Labor?

During labor, a cervical check provides essential information for your obstetrics and gynecology team. Some of the reasons why this simple check is so critical for ensuring a safe and effective delivery, include:

  • Assess labor progress. A cervical check helps assess labor progress by measuring how much the cervix is dilating and effacing. These values are measured in centimeters for dilation and a percentage for effacement. This information is vital, especially if the water has broken, as it indicates how close you are to delivering and if you and your team need to make any adjustments to your birth plan.
  • Guide decisions on interventions. Cervical checks help calculate the Bishop score, which predicts the likelihood of successful labor induction. If the Bishop score is low, indicating unfavorable conditions for natural labor progression, interventions such as administering prostaglandins or performing an amniotomy (intentional rupture of the amniotic sac) might be considered to help stimulate labor, reducing prolonged labor and associated complications.
  • Evaluate if labor has stalled. If labor stalls and there’s no change in the cervix for a while, it might be time for a little help to keep things moving safely. When dilation and effacement stop, especially if your water has already broken, doctors need to monitor for any signs of infection or fetal distress. To help things along, they might suggest giving you oxytocin to speed up labor or in some cases, they may consider a cesarean section.
  • Confirm the position of the baby. During a cervical check, healthcare providers check the presenting part, which is often the baby’s head, to make sure it’s moving down the birth canal the right way. Having the baby in the correct position is important for a smooth vaginal delivery. It helps prevent situations where the baby might end up coming feet-first (breech) or lying sideways (transverse), which may require a cesarean delivery.
  • Ensure timing for pushing. It’s crucial that you only start pushing when the cervix is fully dilated at 10 centimeters. Pushing too early can tire out both mom and baby and increase the chance of tearing. Cervical checks help ensure you start pushing at just the right time, making labor as smooth and safe as possible.
  • Monitor for complications. Regular cervical checks help doctors identify complications early on, like infections if the water has been broken for a long time or if the baby is showing signs of distress. Catching these issues early means doctors can act quickly to take care of both mom and baby, keeping everyone safe during the critical stages of labor.

Tools or Procedures Your Provider May Use

During a cervical exam, your healthcare provider might use a speculum tool. This device is designed to gently open the vaginal walls, allowing your provider a clear view of the cervix. The speculum is usually made of plastic or metal and comes in different sizes to ensure comfort.

How does a speculum work? It’s simple: the speculum has two “blades” that, when gently inserted, can be slowly opened using a handle on the outside. This action creates a small space inside the vagina, holding the walls apart. Your provider can then visually inspect the cervix and vaginal walls for any signs of abnormalities or infection. They can also assess your cervix and monitor the position of the baby. 

How to Make the Cervical Check as Comfortable as Possible

Labor can be an uncomfortable experience and a mid-labor cervical check can often exacerbate that discomfort if it is not performed carefully. To help make your cervical check as comfortable as possible, try the following tips:

  • Choose a disposable speculum. Ask if your healthcare provider can use a disposable speculum. These are often more comfortable because they’re made of lightweight plastic, which isn’t as cold as metal. They’re also single-use, which helps ensure they’re clean and reduces the risk of infection.
  • Understand the process. Ask your healthcare provider to explain how they will perform the check and what sensations you might feel. Understanding each step can help reduce anxiety.
  • Create a calming environment. Request adjustments to make the examination room more relaxing. You might want softer lighting or just a quiet space. A comfortable environment can help you feel more at ease during the check.
  • Find a comfortable position. Work with your doctor or midwife to find the best position for you. Using pillows for support or adjusting your position can help reduce discomfort during the examination.

Speak With Your Doctor or Midwife About Nella

Deciding whether to have cervical checks during labor is a personal choice and having the right information and tools can make all the difference to your birthing experience. Talk to your doctor about using the Nella disposable speculum. These speculums are made from a temperature-neutral polymer, making them feel more comfortable upon insertion than traditional materials. 

Choose tools that prioritize your well-being to make your labor experience as comfortable as possible. Purchase the Nella Comfort Kit and we’ll send it to your healthcare provider so you can have a more comfortable labor journey.
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