Childbirth: Vaginal Exams During Labour

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Childbirth: Vaginal Exams During Labour

Topic Overview

During labour, your health professional will examine your progress by putting on sterile gloves and inserting his or her fingers into your vagina. This allows the health professional to:

  • Assess the baby's position, whether head-first (vertex) or bottom-first (breech), and determine how far the baby has moved down the birth canal (station).
  • Gently push on the baby's head with one finger. If the head can be pushed back, the baby is still floating (ballotable). If the head cannot be pushed back and is low in the pelvis, the head is engaged.
  • Determine how much your cervix has thinned (effaced) and opened (dilated). How dilated and stretched your cervix is during contractions can be helpful in predicting the speed of your labour.
  • Check whether the baby is facing toward your navel or toward your backbone in the birth canal. This can only be done after your water (amniotic sac) breaks (ruptures). A baby facing toward the mother's navel sometimes has a slower, more difficult time moving down the birth canal.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Donald Sproule, MD, CM, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised February 18, 2010

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