No Vaginal Exams!
When I was pregnant with my first child, I swore up and down that when I got closer to my due date I was not going to ask to know my dilation in pregnancy. I knew that by having a vaginal check I would be tempted to start prophesying about when my labor would start and what my birth would be like.
For example, if I found out I was dilated to 2 cm at around 38 weeks I could easily think that I would go into labor before I reached 40 weeks.
Yes Vaginal Exams!
Of course, I had no self-control and I asked for vaginal checks starting at 35 weeks. I found out I was 2-3 cm dilated and 40% effaced.
I could have easily started stressing and wondering if I would go into labor before my due date. I could have got really self-confident and assumed my labor would be shorter because I was already 1/3 done dilating.
I didn’t do any of those things because I knew that my vagina was not a crystal ball.
The vagina is not a crystal ball.
Dilation in Pregnancy
Dilation, effacement, and station information cannot predict when labor will start, how long or how easy/hard labor will be.
The only thing that vaginal checks will tell you is what your body has done to prepare for birth, if anything.
If you opt for a vaginal check at a prenatal appointment and find out that you aren’t dilated at all – you could have your baby that night. Or a week later.
If you find out you are 4-5 cm dilated at 38 weeks pregnant you could have your baby tomorrow… or two weeks later.
Dilation in Labor
The same can be said about dilation in labor. The only thing that dilation, effacement and station in labor will tell you is what your body has already done. A vaginal exam in labor will not tell you how much longer you have to go!
Labor math does not exist.
And we so badly want labor math to exist. For example, if it took us 4 hours to get to 4 cm (dilation) then therefore, it’ll take us 6 more hours to get to 10 cm (fully dilated and ready to push). This method of thinking simply doesn’t work and it’s the opposite of helpful.
Seriously, vaginas are not crystal balls. Your vagina will not tell you how long you have to go until you push your baby out. Even once you get to 10 cm and start pushing you still have no idea how long it will take. It could be 10 minutes, an hour or longer!
Stepping into the unknown is the nature of labor, birth and being a parent. Care providers do a disservice to mamas by prophesying when their baby will arrive.
But, I can understand why it is done – because it is HARD to sit in the unknown with an expecting mama and to not know with her.
However, care providers should censor birth predictions because it is much more compassionate to hold the space for mamas while they step into the unknown than to predict the future.
What About You?
Did you find out your dilation in pregnancy? How was it helpful (or not!) for you? I’d love to hear your story.
If you found this post helpful, you might be interested in this post on how to check your own cervix, this one about how your vagina is not a vacuum cleaner, or this one about how your vagina is not a steel pipe.
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Sunday 29th of April 2018
[…] For some women, and you’ll know when this is you, this is terrible advice. Sometimes, your cervix does not mirror the wild, strong, close together and long contractions you’re having. Sometimes it just needs a little time to catch up. Remember, your vagina is not a crystal ball! […]
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[…] checking dilation doesn’t bother me, even though it is best to remember that the vagina is not a crystal ball. What bothered me was that Mother Cabbage was not a participant in her own birth process. She […]
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[…] However, I’ve been at my fair share of births and have concluded that the vagina is not a crystal ball and cannot predict the future but only report on what has already h…. […]
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Tuesday 21st of March 2017
[…] However, some mothers-to-be are shocked to learn that dilation in and of itself does not predict labor, but simply means birth will happen “soon”. Always remember, the vagina is not a crystal ball! […]
Saturday 18th of February 2017
When I asked to be checked at 36 5/7, my doctor said she couldn't even find my cervix because it was so far up still (or back) either way I figured that meant I must not be close to anything happening. 18 hours later we had our baby boy in our arms by VBAC. My water broke about 12 hours after I heard the news, she couldn't find my cervix. Just goes to show you...exactly what your "number 1 thing to know about your vagina" is all about.