Skip to Content

Your Vagina Is Not a Vacuum Cleaner | Infection During Labor | Mother Rising

The Possibility of Infection

Tick tock. Tick tock.

That is the sound of the clock ticking after a woman’s water breaks.

Tick tock, better start contracting! Tick tock, let’s get that baby delivered!

The Rules

After a woman’s amniotic sac breaks and fluid leaks, most moms are told they need to have a baby within 24 hours because of the possibility of infection.

Once the amniotic sac/barrier is gone, bacteria can be pushed up past the cervix and that bacteria can sometimes cause infection in mama. However, I have something very important to tell you.

Your Vagina is Not a Vacuum Cleaner

I repeat, your vagina is not a vacuum cleaner. Your vagina is not sucking up bacteria. Actually, fluid and mucus is coming down and out of your vagina.

So, you might wonder, how exactly does this bacteria climb up past the cervix?

Worried about infection during labor? This post will dispel all the myths on getting an infection during labor. Your vagina is not a vacuum cleaner, ladies!

Vaginal Exams

Vaginal exams are given to moms upon admission to the hospital, birth center or when a midwife arrives for a homebirth. Care providers want to see if the signs of labor a woman is experiencing has put her in labor and if so, how much progress she has made.

Vaginal exams are given to moms periodically during labor to see how they are progressing (dilating). Also, vaginal exams are given when a mom feels like she needs to push to make sure she is fully dilated (10 cm).

If you recall my previous post, you will remember that vaginal exams do not predict the future, they just show what your body has already done.

Reduce the Risk of Infection During Labor

  • If your care provider says it’s ok, stay home after your water breaks. You will have zero vaginal checks when you are in your own home.
  • Get into a good labor pattern at home. The more “in labor” a woman is when she checks into the hospital the less interventions and vaginal checks she will receive.
  • If needed, use natural labor stimulation methods to get contractions going (nipple stimulation, etc.).
  • After your water has broken don’t have sex or insert anything into the vagina.
  • Eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of water.
  • Drink Emergen-C and eat foods rich in vitamin C to give your immune system a boost.
  • Rest. The more rested you are the stronger your immune system will be.
  • Refuse or limit vaginal checks, especially if your water has broken.
  • Instead of vaginal exams use methods such as: observation of mamas vocalizations and mood to determine labor progression.

Undisturbed Birth

A woman’s body is wise. Her vagina is not a vacuum cleaner, trying to suck up bacteria and infect itself. Excessive vaginal exams can cause infection during labor.

Therefore, allowing a woman to labor and birth undisturbed as much as possible is wise.

What About You?

Did you experience an infection during labor? Did you have many vaginal exams? I’d love to hear your story. Please comment below.

If you found this post interesting, you might be interested in this post called your vagina is not a crystal ball.

Another gem is your vagina is not a steel pipe.



Water Breaking: All Your Questions Answered | Mother Rising

Wednesday 11th of December 2019

[…] it’s helpful to remember that your vagina is not a vacuum cleaner, sucking up bacteria trying to become infected. More often than not, an infection happens because […]

Hospital Birth Procedures Series- Week 4: Cervical Exams - Instinctive Mama

Thursday 22nd of August 2019

[…] > […]

Your Vagina Is Not a Three Ring Circus | Mother Rising

Wednesday 18th of April 2018

[…] Also, frequent vaginal exams increase the risk of infection in mother and baby during labor. […]

Water Birth 101: Benefits, Warnings, Tips and Tricks | Mother Rising

Tuesday 2nd of May 2017

[…] Remember, your vagina is not a vacuum cleaner! […]


Saturday 8th of April 2017

Great advice overall. Physicians and nurses are taught simultaneously that vag exams are both standard practice and unreliable in predicting labor progress, and yet, few of us really embrace the second part of that teaching.

A few exceptions I'd give to staying home after your water breaks (assuming you're not giving birth at home. If you are, then please notify your midwife if):

1) If you're not having your first baby, and even if your first labor was 48 hours long, please at least start heading for the hospital or notify your provider that your water has broken. Pay attention to your contractions. Are they getting harder? Closer together? Longer? Sometimes those second, third, fourth etc, kiddos come fast, especially after your water breaks!

2) If you're GBS positive, head straight for the hospital. If you test positive for GBS (Group Beta Strep), a naturally occurring bacteria, you have a certain window of time to receive antibiotics and protect your baby. While this bacteria poses no threat to you, a baby passing through a vagina can pick this bacteria up in her eyes, her respiratory tract, etc., and this can put baby at risk for lifelong consequences (blindness and life-threatening infection are the two possible consequences that come immediately to my mind).

3) If you notice a greenish color or strange smell to the amniotic fluid, please head for care immediately. This is a likely indicator that baby has taken his or her first poop on the inside. The medical profession calls this meconium staining. Not only can meconium staining result in infection on its own, but it can also cause issues with baby, even in utero, and verifying fetal well-being is important at this point.

4) If you feel like something is coming out/hanging out of you after your water breaks, call 911. Rarely, the cord will come out first or baby's limb will come through the vagina. If the cord comes out first (called cord prolapse), baby's life is in danger as baby's head (or presenting part--possibly legs or butt if you've got a breech kiddo in there) can compress the cord and cut off blood flow to the baby. If baby's presenting part is an arm or leg, birth is going to be a bit trickier than if baby was coming out head-first and you will need to get to the hospital to make sure baby is able to safely descend.

Celebrating Baby’s First Christmas