Vaginal exams are done typically every 2-4 hours when you are in labor to check on your progress. You really should avoid or at least minimise them and here’s why.
1. It is uncomfortable or even painful
Unless you enjoy strangers sticking their fingers deep into your vagina, it is highly probable that you will find this procedure uncomfortable or painful depending on how gentle the person is. At the very least, it is very disruptive to your labor.
2. It is not a highly useful information
Just knowing how many centimetre your cervix has opened at a certain point in time will not help you much. This information cannot be used to predict how long more your labor will be. It only gives you a snapshot of where you are at that moment in time. Mothers can dilate from 5cm to 10cm in 30 mins or they can take 8 hours to dilate 1 cm. Birth is unpredictable.
3. It may cause emotional stress to you
Imagine you are admitted to the hospital at 5cm. 2 hours later, you are still at 5cm. How would you feel? Would you freak out, getting hyper stress on the lack of progress and having a million and one worst case scenarios run through your head? Probably! This information which does nothing to predict how long your labor will be can cause you unnecessary stress.
4. It is done for the convenience of others, not you.
You will know where you are in labor because you are feeling the contractions and your feelings change as labor progress. You don’t need a vaginal exam to know that. The people around you don’t, that’s why they are checking you constantly. It is like you do not need a electronic device to know that your heart is beating, you can feel it and you know when it is beating faster. Same for contractions. You can feel it go more intense and more frequent so you know your labor is progressing. You will know it is time to birth your baby because it will be similar to the feeling like you want to poo as there will be a lot of pressure on your rectum as baby descends. You don’t need a vaginal exam to tell you that. You will know your baby’s crown is out because it can be seen (maybe not by you but it is certainly visible to others).
So mothers, remember to inform your caregiver about your preference to avoid or minimise vaginal exams.