When you start getting down to the due date wire, most pregnant women begin to experience some degree of anxiety over the anticipated pain of giving birth. But for some first time moms, even the thought of a mere cervical check is enough to have them cringing and biting their nails. Does getting your cervix checked hurt, and just how important is it?
Romper spoke with birth doula Robin Elise Weiss to find out what a first-time mom should be expecting at her OB-GYN or midwife appointments as she nears the end of her pregnancy. According to Weiss, it's important to acknowledge that there are two big factors at play during a cervical exam: the physical element and the emotional element.
Cervical exams are are not painful by design, Weiss attests, and many practitioners perform them with very little discomfort for the patient. However, "If a doctor or midwife is trying to assess how far dilated a woman is in pregnancy, there are a couple of factors that influence how much that does or doesn't hurt. Those factors include: the size of the practitioner's hands, the location of the cervix (as labor gets closer, the cervix is easier, and less painful, to reach), and if the practitioner is merely checking dilation or trying to do a manual stretching of the cervix or other clinical procedure."
Emotionally, Weiss points out, it is not generally preferable to anyone to have someone put their hands inside your vagina. This can feel even worse if you are alone and unsupported, or if you were not properly prepared for the check to be done.
Weiss suggests cervical exams may be over-performed. "Certainly there is benefit to doing a clinical exam, such as taking a sample for a Group B Strep culture, but to merely check the cervix at every visit in the last few weeks — it's probably not worth the physical pain, the emotional pain at the time, and the turmoil of hearing you're not dilated or you are (and not in labor)."
If your practitioner leaves the decision up to you, you may decide you're better suited skipping the exam. But in some cases, a cervical check may be medically necessary, in which case it doesn't hurt to bring someone for moral support if you're nervous. And remember, just like in labor itself, the more relaxed you are, the less discomfort you will feel. So just meditate on that extra large milkshake you're going to stop and get after the appointment.