Ask any pregnant or laboring woman if they appreciated getting routine vaginal exams to check progress. During pregnancy, unless the mother is experiencing preterm labor, checking dilation will not change the manner in which the care provider manages the woman’s labor. During labor, routine vaginal exams can increase the chance of infection for the mother and the baby, especially after the membranes have ruptured. These constant examinations can also increase anxiety in the mother if she feels pressure to dilate at a certain pace and increase likelihood of usage of pitocin, the synthetic version of oxytocin.
There are natural alternatives. Be patient and let labor start on it’s own for the pregnant mother. For those in labor, have a skilled support person or ask the care provider or nurse to look at the mother’s emotional sign posts. The sounds, movements and attitude of the mother often reflects where she is in labor.
Because vaginal exams have become so routine, they are often performed without much consideration that there are any alternatives. This is just one example of knowing your options and routine interventions you may consider opting out of. The more options you know, ultimately the more options you have to explore. I encourage you to start to lay out your birth preferences, mapping out your priorities but covering all bases with your care provider. Any additional comfort and support you can find during labor is always welcomed!