Alli & Lea
Childbirth educators, doulas, and Lumos co-founders
Lil Bit of Lumos:
“How many cervical checks should you get in labor?”
It’s a bit of a trick question – how many cervical checks should someone get in labor – isn’t it. It’s all about the “should” that makes this one dicey.
Short honest answer? Prolly none. There isn’t anything about a cervical check that a laboring body thinks is useful for the hormonal process.
Aaaaand – if you’re having your bub in a hospital, there are cervical checks that can be useful strategy.
If there isn’t a medical reason to be at the hospital, being there in early labor (earlier than 6cm) increases your risk of having a cesarean. So it makes sense to know when you’re getting to the hospital where your cervix is at dilation-wise; most care providers are going to be fairly insistent about it.
And a vast majority of care providers are also going to be fairly insistent about a cervical check when a first time laboring person is feeling like they want to/need to push, to ensure the cervix is completely dilated.
Beyond those two common checks – care providers are SUPER VARIABLE. We joke in class that we need a neon sign above our heads that reads “it depends on your care provider” because SO many questions about labor are going to depend on who your care provider is and how they practice.
What we recommend is talking with your care provider prenatally to learn more about what to expect from them with regard to cervical exams. Is there a typical timeline (some care providers prefer to check every 2hrs), are there markers they’re looking for (“when things seem to be changing”), or are they done only if some kind of decisionmaking needs to happen (“if XYZ change hasn’t happened, we may need to consider XYZ intervention”).
Knowing prenatally more what to expect will help you better sort best-fit with your care provider (if the conversation left you feeling uncomfortable, perhaps a change in care provider might be worth considering) and it will help you to know how much communication and negotiation might you want to anticipate needing to do if you and your care provider aren’t on the same page. And bottomline – it will help you know what to expect – and that is powerful in reducing worry and anxiety, and for being able to better go with the flow in labor.
And know that in labor, YOU may be the one looking for or asking for a check even if you thought otherwise prenatally – though our bodies don’t generally think they are a good idea, mentally or emotionally knowing where you are at in labor may end up feeling helpful.