Vaginal examinations in labour, is it an intervention?

In supporting clients over many years now in their birthing journey I make sure that we go through their birth preferences way ahead of the birth so that they not only know their choices in birth but also what the evidence is behind the common interventions laid out to them as a menu in labour. Information is power in labour for the expectant parents so that they feel empowered to ask more questions if need be and not feel helpless to the system.

But some of the common interventions women get told about are induction of labour, epidurals, artificial rupture of membranes and so forth but no one really can prepare you to the full extent of the bombardment of the vaginal examination on admission to hospital which until a women is presented with that pressure at that moment she has no idea what awaits her in the refusal of that ‘holier than thou’ exam that they put so much emphasis on.

Apart from the obvious of who the hell wants to be lying on their back in midst of active labour for them to get an accurate assessment to what is this number really going to tell them but what is my cervix doing right here right now. We are already sending this mum the message of we know your body better than you do.

But a new phenomenon I feel has crept its head as of late and become quite more common from I’ve witnessed in Queensland maternity care and that is midwives and doctors refusing mum a room unless she gets this exam which is in itself unethical, a violation of her human rights and places a woman in a vulnerable position to give in to the higher power when she really doesn’t want to but is faced with the thought that if she doesn’t do this they will send her home.

According to the most recent ‘Queensland Clinical Guidelines’ parent information booklet it states; “It is important to remember that you always have the right to say no or to ask for more information about how your labour is progressing. In some hospitals, if you choose not to have a VE, you may be asked to document this decision.”

So why aren’t women told this and then coerced to just have the exam or else!

All I have to say to this is please get EDUCATED ahead of the birth and have someone there to advocate for you as you will not be in a position to do so yourself and you shouldn’t have to!! So yes vaginal examinations is an intervention that is not necessary on admission for every low risk mum, women need to trust themselves and what their body is telling them as that’s what physiological undisturbed birth is all about.


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