Your Vagina is Not a Crystal Ball

I follow Lindsey’s blog called Mother Rising so when she asked if she could do a guest post here I said, “Absolutely! Pass along anything you think would be a good fit for the site.” As soon as I read the title of this dilation post, I knew it was good for the Burd.

No Vaginal Exams!

When I was pregnant with my son, Gabriel, I swore up and down that when I got closer to my due date I was not going to ask to know my dilation in pregnancy.  I knew that by having a vaginal check I would be tempted to start prophesying about when my labor would start and what my birth would be like.

 

Yes Vaginal Exams!

Of course, I had no self-control and I asked for vaginal checks starting at 35 weeks.  I was 2-3 cm dilated and 40% effaced.

I could have easily started stressing and wondering if I would go into labor before my due date.  I could have got really self-confident and assumed my labor would be shorter because I was already 1/3 done dilating.

I didn’t do any of those things because I knew that my vagina was not a crystal ball.

I repeat.

YOUR VAGINA IS NOT A CRYSTAL BALL.

 

Dilation in Pregnancy

Dilation, effacement, and station information cannot predict when labor will start, how long or how easy/hard labor will be.

The only thing that vaginal checks will tell you is what your body has done to prepare for birth.

If you opt for a vaginal check at a prenatal appointment and find out that you aren’t dilated at all – you could have your baby that night.  Or a week later.  If you find out you are 4-5 cm dilated you could have your baby tomorrow, or two weeks later.

Seriously, vaginas are not crystal balls.  Your vagina will not tell you how long you have to go until you push your baby out.  Even when you get to 10 cm and start pushing you still have no idea how long it will take.
Stepping into the unknown is the nature of labor, birth and being a parent.  Care providers do a disservice to mamas by prophesying when their baby will arrive. 

But, I can understand why it is done – because it is HARD to sit in the unknown with an expecting mama and to not know with her. 

However, care providers should censor birth predictions because it is much more compassionate to hold the space for mamas while they step into the unknown than to predict the future.

 

What About You?

Did you find out your dilation in pregnancy?  How was it helpful (or not!) for you?  I’d love to hear your story.

If you found this post helpful, you might be interested in this post on how to check your own cervix or this one about how your vagina is not a vacuum cleaner.


Lindsey Morrow is author of two websites: a pregnancy blog called Mother Rising and a pregnancy book review site called My Best Pregnancy Books.  Lindsey is a childbirth educator, doula and mother of two.  She attends a lot of births and often freaks people out by posting placenta pictures on Instagram.  Lindsey lives in North Florida with her family and dreams of moving some place more temperate like the mountains.

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57 Comments

  • 1st baby: checked when 7days late – 0% dilated or effaced, couldn’t reach the cervix for a sweep, had the baby the next day.
    2nd baby: checked after 2 hrs labour – 6cm dilated, had the baby 10 minutes later.

  • I was 3 days late with my first when I began having real contractions really close together. I had an appointment that day and due to scheduling I had to see a back up ob who told me I was not in labor because I was only a 1.5 and said it would be another week. I had him that night lol

  • With my first, I went into labor unexpectedly at 32 weeks. The first time I was checked was in the ER and I was already at a 4. He was born 6 hours later, despite attempts to get him to chill out. My second, I had checks up until 34 weeks for peace of mind because I was having contractions and was worried about another preemie. After we hit the 34 week mark, I didn’t have another check at all. By the time I got to the hospital, I was definitely in the "screaming my head off so obviously in transition" phase of labor and an hour later my daughter was born. Honestly, the fewer hands up my vagina in pregnancy and labor, the better. There’s already way enough going on up there. But that’s just me 🙂

  • I was never checked during my prenatal appointments or during labor and loved it. I remember my MIL asking if I knew how dilated I was around week 38 and me knowing it didn’t matter. In labor my midwife eventually just told me I could start pushing. It was nice just letting things progress naturally with no expectations of how fast or slow it was going to be.

  • After contracting every night for a week, I went in and got checked only to find out that I had not at all progressed and was still completely shut. It was so disappointing because if I did not go into labour on my own, I would have to have a csection. Fast forward 36 hours from that check and my baby girl was in my arms via a vaginal delivery after going into labour on my own!! My cervix had literally changed overnight and the doc said "this is a night and day difference!", so I couldn’t agree more with this post 🙂

  • I had my 36 week appt., midwife told me my cervix was high and I was not dilated at all. Went to the birthing center at 11pm that night AFTER MY WATER BROKE! Yes. That happened. She wasn’t on shift the following night when I gave birth but when she was on shift the next day, she just laughed and said, "it happens!". K well next time around I’m gonna say don’t even check! But then again I probably will be DYING with anticipation and likely get it checked out. Pregnancy, man, pregnancy.

  • I have not had a check yet. But because I am high risk I get cervical ultrasounds weekly. Which again, is good to monitor me since I am high risk but isn’t a crystal ball either. I could check find at my appointment tomorrow and go into labor Thursday. You just never know.

  • I’d watched enough Labor & Delivery stories on Youtube to know that ladies being checked weren’t any better off/closer to delivery with their fantastic progress. More often than not, it stalled for a while after getting halfway there, err’body got discouraged and after chilling in the hospital for 24 hours with nothing happening, they opted for the drugs/inducement/c-section because they were losing their marbles waiting.

    I waited 42 weeks to have my baby boy and only got a progress update during each of the three membrane sweeps (one at 40 – just 1cm dliated, not effaced, one at 41 – still just 1 cm but slightly softer maybe, then one at 41,6 the day before I delivered – nearly 3cm, 80% effaced) and once during labor which I requested around 4am when I felt we’d turned a corner and things were getting real — Like Lanie commented above, I wanted to know that I was writhing and moaning in pain for a good reason. After light labor since 3pm, and decently harder labor since 3am, being only 5cm at 4am made me feel I’d be in labor forever (apparently it doesn’t count until 6cm these days and she said to expect about 12 more hours of active labor to go).

    Thankfully, my little Mr. had made me wait long enough. He was born later that morning at 9:16am after about 1 hour of pushing. All told, 12hrs early labor at home, +2 more (transitioning?) at the birth center ~4 hours hard labor — 1 hour of which was pushing.

    My vagina didn’t predict any of that.

    Had I known my progress before my due date, I think I would have lost it before 42 and gone for more significant intervention (epidural, inducement, etc etc) — the only thing that kept me sane and allowed me to stick with it was the positive reports from my midwife that we had zero signs of complications and baby was not too big in there so we were still good for the natural delivery I wanted so much.

    Put me on the side of don’t bother checking before your due date, and even then, you don’t really need to know.

  • I did not have any vaginal checks towards the end of either pregnancy. When I went into labor with #1 and immediately had the pushing feeling, my midwife did a check to confirm that I was effaced and dilated. For #2, baby was already on the way when my midwife arrived, so there was no time for a check.

  • I was checked at 38 weeks and was 2 cm dilated. Checked again at 39 or so and was 3.5 cm. I think that was a Wednesday. Thursday morning the glorious "mucus plug" decided to make it’s way out, which was totally disgusting. Friday night I went into labor and went into the hospital Saturday morning at 6. She was born early that afternoon, which was her due date. I spent every day since the first check wondering when she was going to arrive, and of course she had to come the day that was predicted the whole time. I would recommend not even doing it until 38+ weeks, because it really just makes you spot all over and raise more questions anyway, I can’t imagine starting that at 35 weeks or so.

  • yah, it’s a funny thing…dilation. With my first, I started getting checked at 39 weeks and I was 1 to 2 cm and 70% effaced I think…which I knew meant nothing. When I finally went into labour (at 41week 1day and was induced), I labored hard (or it sure seems hard anyway lol) for probably 4 or 5 hrs and then asked me if I wanted to be checked…I said yes. Well, I hadn’t progressed must at all…I was maybe 2-3cm and still not completely effaced. I said, order me up that epidural lol! Another 3 or 4 hrs goes by…still no epidural…labor getting more intense, finally, the epidural. They checked me and I was 8 cm. So, you labor hard and get no where for hrs, then all of sudden things really start moving. Even during labor, checking your cervix is kind of pointless…I guess it tells you how far you’ve come, but not how long you still have to go!

  • Wow. It’s like the fates directed me here. I read this blog when I was pregnant with my son and absolutely loved it. Here I am preggo with #2 at 39 weeks. I had the check yesterday and I am 1cm dilated. I couldn’t sleep last night because I kept thinking I was going to go into labor. I realize now that this is ridiculous and putting any kind of expectation on labor is silly. I wish I could have had this epiphany at 1AM last night when I thought every little cramp was ‘THE beginning’. I suppose many of us mamas are torn between wanting to predict what will happen and accepting that it’s just not realistic. audible sigh Keep calm and carry on I guess…

  • i had to know!! i exercised throughout my entire pregnancy and went into my second pregnancy fitter than my first. i wanted to see if that made any difference this round concerning dilation among other things. i stayed at 1cm for over 2 weeks (boo) but at least L& D was faster this time by leaps and bounds.

    le

  • With kid #1 I walked around at 3-4 cm for a few weeks. With kid #2 I was 5 cm at a prenatal check, and did indeed have the baby a few days later with only 3 hours labor. BUT with kid #3 I was only 1 cm when I showed up to the hospital with some contractions, so they sent me home. An ambulance crew delivered the baby after a 20 minute labor later that night, so it looks like it’s all over the map!

  • I started irregular contractions at 6am on a sunday… the hospital kept saying "no no… stay in bed. Its braxton hicks." I went 23 hours, gave in to the pain and went in anyway, the check showed me at 8cm dilated. They were amazed I stayed at home so long. My stubborn monkey still did not arrive until 2:30 on monday afternoon, exactly one week late lol

  • I had a couple checks in the last 2 weeks, but I didn’t pay much attention to them. I believe I was 2-3cm dilated at the last check. My baby wasn’t due for another couple of weeks, but he ended up coming two weeks early. Neither my midwife, nor I really felt that birth was eminent at the time of my check-up. But, a few days before my water broke, I just KNEW. I could feel that something had changed. I think that’s a much better indicator!

  • I had weekly checks starting at 36 weeks with both pregnancies. But I was contracting like crazy near the end and wanted to know that I wasn’t going through hell on a daily basis for nothing. Knowing that I was progressing even a centimeter or two a week helped me keep my sanity. However after I let my dialation control my expectations for delivery with my first pregnancy, I made sure, no matter what, to expect to go to term with number two. I ended up unexpectedly popping at 38 weeks, but hey, I was sane.

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