When I went into my 37-week appointment, I was more nervous than I was when I sat for my board exams. I'd heard a lot about the internal exam, and I was terrified of the unknown of the procedure. Like, does having your cervix checked hurt? Would I bleed afterwards? Would it send me into labor?
Also, it's a very invasive experience. Sure, they're just using their fingers to check your cervix to check for dilation and effacement, according to the Mayo Clinic, but it feels very foreign. It's first done at 37 weeks, and then is only repeated in the subsequent weeks if the OB-GYN or midwife feels the need to continue based on his or her initial examination. For me, I began dilating by the time I had my first cervical check, therefore, I had one at each subsequent check. (Which meant I had one more. I've never delivered after 38.5 weeks.)
So, does getting your cervix checked hurt? There are many mommy boards dedicated to just this subject and it is a hot-button issue. So I asked some of my mom friends to weigh in on the topic, because it seems to be really subjective.
My friend Amy Cissell tells Romper, "I really don't remember it hurting until they checked for dilation when I was already in labor." I remember that hurting something awful, too. I don't know if it's because you're already in pain or what, but I hated it. Could labor make a cervical check worse? Of course it could. Labor can do that kind of damage to your pain tolerance.
Another friend of mine, Ava Cubrovnic, gives Romper a simple answer. "Yes, it hurt like hell. I hated going in my appointment. Plus, I think my doctor's hands were abnormally large. He's a big chap, so I'm going to blame that as well, not just my own toothpick-sized tolerance for pain."
My friend and personal trainer, Inge Jolsburger, also shares her experience with Romper. She says, "It wasn't painful, but I did cramp a little after. The pain you're describing makes me wonder if you go home after working out and just cry for a few hours." I don't, actually. I take my Advil with my wine and whine about Inge to my husband. It's great pain relief.
So does it always vary from woman to woman? That seems to be the case. Lindsay Alter, RN, is a labor and delivery nurse, and she tells Romper, "It's uncomfortable for everyone, for the most part, and tends to be more uncomfortable for women who've been feeling a lot of cervical pressure during their pregnancies, or for those women who 'carry low.' You may also spot a little afterwards, and some women even lose their mucus plug after that appointment and think it's due to the cervical exam, when really, you're just about to deliver anyway." She notes, however, that if your doctor decides to strip your membranes (which is not the same as having your cervix checked), that is painful. Fortunately, it's not usually done unless you're overdue or having a rough pregnancy.
"When they check your cervix in the delivery room, there's already so much blood flowing down to your cervix that it might hurt more, but then again, you are also pumping tons of adrenaline in your body, so you may not notice it at all," Alter adds.
I didn't love getting my cervix checked, but it also wasn't the worst thing ever. Honestly, I'd rather have that done than stub my toe, get a paper cut, or play Monopoly with my children — which is the real torture of parenthood, am I right?
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries: