What is a cervical check? It’s an examination of your cervix to see how dilated (opening of cervix, measured in centimeters) and effaced (thinning of cervix, measured in percentages) you are.
Imagine you’ve been laboring at home for hours when you decide to go to the hospital. Upon arrival they want to do a cervical check. You have three options:
1. Decline the check
Pros: not pulled out of labor groove, less infection risk, more likely to have a physiological labor
Cons: Not sure how dilated you are (up to you if that is a pro or con)
2. Get the check and have the nurse not tell you (she could tell your partner or doula)
Pros: Provider is satisfied, you don’t have to deal with disappointment if you aren’t as progressed as you thought or hoped
Cons: Increased risk of infection, increased risk of interventions
3. Get the check and find out where you are
Pros: You can make an informed decision (do I want to go home? Do I want to accept or decline Pitocin?)
Cons: Increased risk of infection, increased risk of interventions, can make you feel defeated if it’s not what you thought or hoped (this is very common)
Labor is way more of a head game than we believe it to be. When a woman is allowed to sink in deep into labor land and find her groove, she is much more likely to get the birth she wants. When labor is disrupted by temperature checks, cervical checks, questions, etc it pulls her out of labor land and back into her brain.
When cervical checks are done because of a clinical sign, it can indicate a need that is beneficial. When they are done out of curiosity, there is usually more harm than good done.
Protecting your mind from disappointment is key in having a natural/physiological/undisturbed birth.
Your cervix is not a crystal ball. Some women are completely closed for hours before their baby is born. Others are at a 4 for weeks before they even go into labor! Your cervix can change quickly and a cervical check doesn’t give an accurate picture of when your baby will be born. More reliable indicators of timeline include the sounds you are making, the way your body is moving and tracking contractions.
Remember, you can go your whole pregnancy and labor without one single cervical check, and your baby will still be born. Trust that your body and your baby are working together!
Keep in mind:
-Your cervix is meant to stay closed until you are in labor