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.
If you are a mom-to-be getting ready to give birth soon, make sure you know these three important rights that every birthing mother is entitled to. Moms who are going through labor and giving birth have:
1. The Right to be Respected - As a birthing mom, you deserve to be respected by the medical staff, including both the doctors and the midwives or nurses. This means that you deserve to to be talked to with respect AND you deserve for your birth preferences to be honored. For example, when you assert your preferences, the staff at the hospital do not have a right to talk down to you or shame you by telling you you are being a difficult “patient.” You can choose to spend labor any way you wish to, adopting any position and coping strategies to make you feel comfortable.
2. The Right to Decide who Touches Your Body - This especially applies to who touches and what enters your vagina. You have a right to give (or not give) consent. Let me tell you this story – One day, while I was getting my facial done, I was having small chat with my facial therapist. She told me her birth story as soon as she found out that I taught childbirth classes. It was the most horrifying story! She told me that during labor, because she was in a public teaching hospital, a group of intern doctors came in, took turns to do vaginal exams on her! What more, they were debating about their findings there and then. As vaginal exams are pure estimates, different people, depending on their experiences, will have different estimates. Whilst I understand that these doctors need to gain some practical experiences, every woman has the right to be asked permission, be informed about what they are doing and be aware that she has the right to refuse if she feels uncomfortable. The lady told me she didn’t know she could choose to refuse. I felt very sorry for her at the time. And I feel very sorry for the millions of sisters all around the world who may have been subjected to this without their consent.
3. The Right to Advocate for Your Baby - You and your baby have a right to remain together at all times. There is no need for mother-baby separation or for baby to be sent to the nursery unless there is a medical emergency. (Weighing, bathing and vaccinating the baby immediately after birth are not medical emergencies!). It is important to inform yourself about the benefits and importance of skin-to-skin bonding. Do not let anyone rob you of your precious time with your baby just to follow man made protocols. Nature has a bigger and better plan! The same applies to other baby related practices like delayed cord clamping, delayed bathing, continuous skin to skin, roomin in, immediate access to breastfeeding and more, which are all evidence based practices that benefit both mom and baby.
Stand up for your birth rights, mummy! You and your baby deserve it!
- Bee Ting Ng,
HypnoBirthing Mongan Method Trainer, Author, International Speaker💖