Cervical Exams: What You Need to Know

What’s the Big Deal About Cervical Exams?

At this point in your pregnancy, you have probably heard about cervical exams or checks. Maybe your friends or family members have had them and shared their experience. In this blog post, I’m going to talk all about the what and why of cervical exams. This post is part 3 of 4 in my Big Moments in Birth series. You can catch the webinar here!

What is a cervical exam?

Firstly, in a cervical exam/cervical check, your provider uses their fingers to examine and measure dilation (how open your cervix is) and effacement (how thin your cervix is). Many providers do these checks in the last weeks of pregnancy as part of their standard of care to check for progress before labor starts. In labor, these checks are offered at admission to your birthing place and then routinely thereafter.

Labor progress happens in many different ways. Baby’s position is changing and they are descending and rotating. Your cervix is softening, thinning, and dilating. It is NOT a naturally linear process.

Your cervix is NOT a crystal ball. Just because you are dilated x cm before labor starts, doesn’t necessarily mean anything about your true labor progress. Also, it is very difficult to predict and not incredibly accurate before labor starts.

Too many, poorly timed, or unwelcome cervical exams in labor can change the way your brain and hormones work in birth and affect your labor progress.


  • Continuously measuring progress = overthinking
  • Can be a disruption to normal physiology – disturbs hormone balance and feelings of safety, privacy, and comfort
  • Can be discouraging if done too early or without enough time for real progress
  • They’re UNCOMFORTABLE and it disturbs your coping strategies for comfort
  • They can be extremely triggering for many people
  • Can introduce risk of infection

Before you have a cervical exam, you can ask the following questions:

  • How do I feel about having a cervical exam? Does this feel right to me? Use your intuition.
  • What information will this give me? Is it useful?
  • Will this information help me make a decision?
  • What are the risks and benefits of this exam right now?
  • Can I wait until later? Is there any reason I need this exam right now?
  • How will I feel if progress is less than I expected? Is this information going to be encouraging or defeating?

Consider the following ideas if you are wondering about whether a cervical exam is right for you:

Your body and your baby have no idea how to measure in centimeters. This is a man-made construct. Your body has no idea how to measure labor progress in numbers because labor is a holistic process that involves the body, mind, and spirit. Humans have been birthing since ancient times without any cervical exams.

Consider carefully what this measurement means to you. Progress can ebb and flow throughout labor and this is a snapshot of ONE moment in time. Ideally, you are getting the right information at the right time.

If you arrive at your birth place and your exam does not show that you are in active labor (6cm+), YOU CAN GO HOME!

Are you thinking…”tell me more!”?? Check out my ULTIMATE Holistic Birth Course.

In this course, you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to birth your baby in peace and power. I’m going to give you my expert insight based on years of experience as a doula, educator, and mother of four. You’ll receive expert level knowledge to help you radically transform your birth experience. 

Along with your childbirth education, you’ll also receive AMAZING resources to help you achieve your goal of a calm and confident birth (A $579 value!).

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If you want to learn more, I’m giving a FREE webinar called 5 Totally Doable Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth on January 27th at 7pm. In this webinar, I’m going to give you some totally doable tips to support your goal of a healthy pregnancy and birth. Learn nutrition hacks, how to support your microbiome, ways to incorporate natural movement, and relaxation strategies. Sign up and receive a FREE set of relaxation audio files!

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