There's No Such Thing As HAVE To!
Whilst working with one of my lovely Hypnobirthing couples today I was asked the question "Do I 'have' to have a vaginal examination." To wish my response was "absolutely not, unless you want one!"
This wonderful lady was truly lead to be believe after attending an antenatal class (not mine!) that she HAD to have one, because when she questioned the midwife "well how else are we going to know how far along you are?" was the response she was given.
I felt really saddened about this as my mission through my teaching and my classes is to inspire and empower women, not only to trust their bodies but to make informed decisions that are right for them and their babies. For a pregnant woman to be made to feel like she must do something that she is not informed, educated and completely comfortable with just doesn't sit right with me at all.
So she has inspired me to write this blog to get the word out there:
Vaginal Examinations ARE NOT mandatory during birth. You ALWAYS have a choice!!
Let's start by learning a little bit about them:
What are they? Vaginal Examinations (VE's), are routinely used during labour in the UK - every 4 hours. They give your midwife a marker of "where you're up to", can confirm if labour has *officially* started, what position baby is in and if your membranes/waters have released.
How are they done? A midwife inserts their two fingers into your vagina and slightly into your cervix. Then they will spread their fingers like this ✌🏻then use a professional 'guesstimation' how far apart their fingers are in centimetres. Then they declare how dilated/open you are.
Is it accurate? This is not an exact science. While there is no doubt this takes practice and skill to master, there is no guarantee of accuracy - one midwives 4cm might be another midwives 6cm! Even if this 'was' always an exact measurement of dilation, it still absolutely does not tell us how long your body needs to dilate to 10 centimetres (cervix fully thinned and open). Some women will dilate from 5-10 in an hour, while other woman need 12+ hours to dilate this same amount. Your cervix is not a crystal ball. Vaginal exams only tell us what HAS ALREADY HAPPENED and does NOT tell us what is going to happen and how fast or slow. Unfortunately all to often women are not correctly informed about this procedure and believe that it is essential or 'must' be agreed to whether they truly want it or not. But what if you were to be told that VE’s were NOT always needed to assess a woman what would be your response? The truth is there are many other ways to determine where a woman is at during her labouring experience. One wonderful natural tool is the Purple Line (see my recent Instagram post for a visual)
As the baby descends, a red/purple line creeps up from the anus to in between the bum cheeks. It is understood as a visual cue to dilation and has been studied to show it usually presents in approximately 90% of women, it is said the higher the line the closer she is to being fully open/dilated. Other ways to determine progress can be simply by observing the labouring mother.
In early labour women can converse quite well with those around her but might become less chatty and able to progress as labour moves along. How does she sound? Is she vocalising?
A woman's uterine seal might come away (loss of the mucus plug from the cervix.) What does she smell like? - some report a really musky earthy smell right before transition. Her emotional state - many women close to transition start to say things like “I can’t do this anymore” or “please make it stop”. She may start to appear irrational or fearful all of a sudden,
These can be quite handy indicators birth is imminent and midwives are trained and tuned in to pick up on all of the above responses. Frequent vaginal examinations can also be quite difficult and uncomfortable for the woman as well as emotionally distressing,
So ask yourself is it absolutely necessary before you agree to anything, remember this is your body and you have the right to decline any procedure that you are not 100% comfortable or sure about.
Maybe a question to ask yourself would be - as long as you and baby are ok....what's the rush?
Remember: You can always say no thank you! Vaginal Exams are a birth intervention. Your consent must be sought to have one. Please don't feel pressured if you don't want one or don't feel it's necessary. Educate yourself, feel strong, empowered and have a clear view of what you want and what you are happy to accept.
My HypnoBirthing course will 100% help you feel and be all of the above. Please get in touch to book a free, no obligation consultation. I'm currently taking booking from November all the way in to February so please don't leave it too late to enquire as my diary is wonderfully busy.