Declining Cervical Checks During Pregnancy

I look up everything. If I’m faced with something, I can promise you I have googled every fact about it, joined related Facebook groups, and read every forum thread that I can find. It’s just who I am. Before kids, I researched everything about trying to get pregnant and conceiving. It wasn’t until I was pregnant that I realized I had no clue how to BE pregnant. I hadn’t gotten that far in my research. So I downloaded a bunch of pregnancy
tracker apps, joined due date Facebook groups, read the books, and tried to learn the dos and don’ts of pregnancy.

As I approached the end of my pregnancy, my apps informed me that starting around 36 weeks my doctor would begin checking my cervix at appointments to check for dilation, effacement, and station. I had always heard pregnant women mention how “dilated” they were, but I didn’t exactly know what all of this meant for me. So I went down my research rabbit hole again, this time focused on dilation, effacement, and station.

 

And after researching, I was still confused. I understood the science of what the checks were looking for, but I didn’t get the why of it all. I went to my next appointment still confused. As the apps predicted, my OB told me that we would start checking my cervix at my next appointment… if I wanted to.

If I wanted to

Well, that didn’t come up in my research! Nothing I read ever made this seem optional. I peppered my doctor with questions about it being optional and the rationale and need for the checks. Three things I came away with: 1) they are a little uncomfortable and can be painful for some women, 2) there is a small risk that bacteria can be introduced during a check, and 3) they don’t provide a clear indication of when a woman will go into labor. In fact, they often can be anxiety-provoking for some women.

Ding! Ding! Ding! That’s me, the anxious one. I knew that if she told me I was dilated at all, I would be on pins and needles for the rest of my pregnancy. I would be nervous that a baby would just fall out at any point. Thinking of how triggering this would be for my anxiety was enough for me to decline them for the remainder of my pregnancy.

I did ask why some would choose to be checked. My doctor informed me that most often patients want an idea of how far along they are. For the same reasons it makes me nervous to know, it can put others at ease. Additionally, it’s a long-standing common practice and is simply routine for some providers.

How it worked out

Declining checks has worked well for me with both of my pregnancies. I have happily gone into labor spontaneously both times, having no clue how dilated I was. Anxiety-free, I spent the day prior to my first delivery shopping and out to lunch, and with my second I spent the day before spending time with my oldest.

I arrived at the hospital at 6 centimeters dilated with my first and at 5 centimeters with my second. Declining the checks has worked out perfectly for me, and if I ever have another child I will choose the same option. Note: once at the hospital, I do allow checks during active labor.

I hope this helps an expecting mom know that this is an option if you choose. I encourage all expecting women to do their research, find doctors who share your values, and always advocate for yourself and your baby.

Danielle is a native New Orleanian. She graduated from Ben Franklin and attended the University of New Orleans' undergraduate and graduate schools. She and her husband Abraham married in 2017 and welcomed their son Blaise in June of 2019. She balances motherhood with working full time as the Director of Finance and Operations at a local CMO. As a first time mom she is learning to embrace the chaos. Danielle’s current struggle is getting her little one to nap as well at home as he does at daycare and to utilize his sippy cup. This type-A mama can usually be found on the go with a to-do list and a plan. She enjoys gift giving, thrifting, watching tv and sewing. Additionally, she never turns down a happy hour or beach vacation. She is excited to experience New Orleans as a mom and is truly proud to call it home.

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