The necessity of vaginal exams….or not

Vaginal exams are done to determine cervical dilation. Cervical dilation defines labor… most of the time. This exam is similar to an annual Pap smear, but can be more uncomfortable. The cervix is the entry into the uterus and its normal pre labor position is difficult to reach during a digital exam thus causing more pain when the provider is trying to assess it. As labor progresses, the cervix moves forward, thins, and opens. Once labor is diagnosed, and seems to be progressing, without significant risk factors, the vaginal exam is not mandatory.

If you are delivering at a teaching hospital, this is where students of all kinds (med students, Residents and nursing students) learn how to perform a vaginal exam. Although this is the best way for these students to learn how to develop this skill, you have the right to decline. If an epidural is in place the exams become more tolerable and in many instances, pain free.

Know your rights. You can ALWAYS say no.