Did you know that you can still deliver a baby without a medical professional jamming their fingers up your hoohah every few hours to see if you've made any progress?
Crazy, but true!
I would know- I've delivered two babies without a single vaginal exam!
Did you also know that dilation of the cervix actually tells very little about how fast or slow a woman's labor will progress? Or that every care provider's fingers are different sizes so there is very little consistency from one cervical exam to another if they are not performed by the same person? (This is often why women are told their dialation has gone backwards or stalled when it actually has not.)
Oh, and vaginal exams are a prime opportunity to introduce bacteria into the birth canal potentially causing problems for mom and baby. How about that lovely tidbit?
I'm shocking your socks off, aren't I?! Well, keep 'em on because I've got a few more for ya'!
Even when the cervix do not appear to be further dialating there are still other things happening within a woman's body to further labor along! Oh, AND, being dialated to a 10 is actually not the ultimate sign that a woman's body is ready to push, but rather the involuntary bearing down that occurs as she makes her way through contractions is! That's right, your body will actually start pushing all on its own without anyone ever declaring that it's time or telling you to hold your breath and count to 10 while pushing!
You see, it's sort of crazy, but your body was actually designed to give birth and it is fully capable of doing so without a lot of outside instruction (go figure!). When I, personally, realized that my body was going to do what it needed to do pretty much no matter what, it was incredibly freeing and empowering to be able to trust the process and follow my body's lead. When I did so, in comparison to my first labor, things went so much smoother and the pain was worlds more tolerable!
But I'm getting off track. What I really want to teach you today is something I learned in Bradley Birthing Classes years ago during my doula training and it completely revolutionized how I looked at labor. It's called the Emotional Map of Labor, or The Emotional Sign-Posts of Labor, and they are actually better indicators of how a woman is progressing than the typical cervical exam. Check it out-
The Emotional Sign-Posts of Labor
Excitement and Anticipation- This is the way the woman is feeling in early labor when she knows that things are finally starting. Contractions are definable but not too intense and she can easily keep up a conversation through them.
Focus and Concentration- (Generally between 4 or 5-7 cm dialated) This is what a woman starts to display as she makes her way into the more intense active labor stage- she's gettin' serious now folks! Contractions will now be at an intensity level that she will have to concentrate on working through them more and she most likely won't be talking much during them. She is still able to engage in conversation in between contractions but everything is now focused on the labor and she likely won't be Chatty Cathy. Through most of this stage, while more intense, she will mostly still feel capable of working through her labor (if she has had a good education for working with her labor and if she has a good support team).
I can't do this anymore!! This is what transition looks like (7-10 centimeters) It is the point a woman reaches when she feels as though she just can't do it anymore- she begins to doubt her ability to get through this whole anguishing process. Luckily this is the sign that she is almost to the pushing stage. It is the point when she needs to take contractions one at a time… but she will need to be reminded of that because she won't think she can!
Refocused and a Resurgence of Energy- The calm after the storm. She is finally through transition! Her contractions are changing and she is beginning to grunt and maybe even push through contractions without even realizing it. This is where she gets her second wind to get the job done. It still may not be all fun and games but she is regaining her confidence that she can get this over with.
You Were Made for This!
I believe it was my midwife who once told me that if you tried to check a cat's cervix while in labor she would bite your fingers off! Why should it be any different for you or me?! So the next time a well meaning member of hospital staff walks into your delivery room gloved and ready to shove, just ask them if you look and sound ready to them! OR ;-), kindly have your hubs let them know that you will be following The Emotional Sign-Posts of Labor so their lovely vinyl-ladden fingers can find a job someplace else!
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*I am not a medical professional- just a mom and doula sharing from my experiences and research.