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Preparing For Labor

Checking Your Own Cervix

How to Check Your Own Cervix- "it's not rocket science"

"I think it's a good and empowering thing for a woman to check her own cervix for dilation. This is not rocket science, and you hardly need a medical degree or years of training to do it. Your vagina is a lot like your nose- other people may do harm if they put fingers or instruments up there but you have a greater sensitivity and will not do yourself any harm.

"The best way to do it when hugely pregnant is to sit on the toilet with one foot on the floor and one up on the seat of the toilet. Put two fingers in and go back towards your bum. The cervix in a pregnant woman feels like your lips puckered up into a kiss. On a non-pregnant woman it feels like the end of your nose. When it is dilating, one finger slips intothe middle of the cervix easily (just like you could slide your finger into your mouth easily if you are puckered up for a kiss). As the dilation progresses the inside of that hole becomes more like a taught elastic band and by 5 cms dilated (5 fingerwidths) it is a perfect rubbery circle like one of those Mason jar rings that you use for canning, and about that thick.

"What's in the centre of that opening space is the membranes (bag of waters) that are covering the baby's head and feel like a latex balloon filled with water. If you push on them a bit you'll feel the baby's head like a hard ball (as in baseball). If the waters have released you'll feel the babe's head directly.

"It is time for women to take back ownership of their bodies."
-Gloria Lemay, Vancouver, BC <>

This link explains more of how the different things feel (how your cervix will feel if it is ripe, etc):
What can vaginal exams tell you? Should you have one?

Helps to have a visual:
What dilation and effacement look like:

Stations of Presentation:
(above on page 21)

Here's some more advice and info that might help you know when to go in:Early phase. For most women the latent phase is the easiest part of labor; it's also the longest. In this early phase, contractions can range from 5 to 30 minutes apart and last from 30-45 seconds. The early phase of labor lasts an average of eight hours for first-timers, but it can vary from a few hours to a few days. During early labor your cervix thins out, becoming from 50-90 percent effaced. It also dilates, reaching 3-4 centimeters by the end of early labor.

Active phase. Contractions in the active phase usually occur every 3- 5 minutes and last 45-60 seconds. Women often describe active labor contractions as waves starting at the top of the uterus and going to the bottom, or from the back radiating around to the front. This is also the phase of labor when your membranes are most likely to rupture and produce a gush of fluid as your water breaks. This phase of the first stage of labor lasts on average of 3-4 hours. Your cervix completely effaces and you dilate from 4 to 8 centimeters. Baby's head descends lower labor your pelvis, which often breaks the membranes and releases the amniotic fluid with a gush. Your brain responds to your increased discomfort by releasing endorphins, your body's natural pain-relievers.

Transition phase. Transition means you are moving from the first stage of labor– stretching the pelvic passages open – into the second stage, pushing baby out. Transition is the most intense phase of your entire labor, but the good news is it's the shortest, usually lasting only 15 minutes to an hour and a half. Many women do not experience more than 10 or 20 contractions during transition. Transition contractions are more frequent than those of active labor-- 1-3 minutes apart – and will last at least a minute or a minute and a half. Your cervix dilates the final few centimeters during transition

Contractions do feel different for some moms. You can't rely on them to be like the textbook start in the back wrap to the front, abdomen in a vice kind of feeling. Some of the pains you have described are exactly how other moms have described their real labor contractions. Some possibilities: all in the back, menstural cramps, braxton hicks, pain in the thighs, pain in the pelvis, localized top of the abdomen or bottom, burning feeling in thighs or pelvis. Since there are so many variations you need to look for a few things:
1. Their consistency. Real labor contractions (especially active labor ) won't stop regardless of your activity. Some activities may intensify them but unless you are in really early labor relaxation will keep them going strong. When in doubt about real vs prelabor try drinking a big glass of water and either laying down on your left side or taking a warm bath and see what happens.

2. Their frequency. As you enter active labor the contractions are usually about 3-5 minutes apart and last about 45-60 seconds. Some moms never get clock perfect contractions so don't discount other signs if the contractions are uneven.

3. Their intensity. The further you get into labor, the more intense the contractions get. They usually go from the, "Hmm...I wonder if this is a contraction?" to, "I want to go back to early labor! " Even if you do have a high tolerance for pain, labor is different. It is rhythmic and becomes obvious. You can anticipate a contraction and feel it builidng then releasing. Almost every mom reaches a stage where she can't talk or walk through the cntractions any more. She finds that labor needs her attention both during and after a contraction.

Look for those things. As you go through the stages of labor (early, active, transition)you will figure out that there is something going on. Even if it doesn't really hurt you will probably notice some twinge or pang that comes and goes. Look at the clock and see what is going on.

Final thing The Emotional Signposts of Labor (using these with the physical can really help you figure out what is going on):
First Emotional Signpost: Excitement
This stage will come early in the process, when you first begin to have contractions. The work will become progressively more difficult and require more of your attention. But, on the whole, the laboring mother is able to enjoy a good joke and moves with a light excitement. And, although this signpost can begin at the very start of labor, it may last quite a while. This is the fun part of labor. Enjoy it – Do not go to the hospital or birthing suite. It is very much too soon.

Partners: Is she is quick to smile, elated, and excitedly nervous, be prepared that she still has a way to go before you are going to meet this baby. Your job is to make sure she remembers to eat, sleep and breathe deeply. Savor this stage, enjoy the excitement, and by all means – STAY AT HOME. If you think she is working hard, and you decide to go to the hospital – take the camera test (if she can smile and pose for the photo – STAY AT HOME).

Second Emotional Signpost: Seriousness
Somehow, excitement will give way to seriousness, often without your knowing exactly when this happened. Concentration is required with each contraction. You have to put forth a real effort to relax and breathe deeply. These contractions are often a minute long. The serious emotional signpost is total absorption in the work at hand, a do-not-disturb attitude.

Partners: This is when you should become serious too. Do not wait for her to become desperate to start working with her! Follow her cues, and match her pace. The trick is to stay on top of the contractions and maintain a rhythm. The primary goal is total relaxation at all times.

Third Emotional Signpost: Self-Doubt
Your uterus now shifts into high gear and does the most difficult piece of the work, the final stretch from 7 to 10 centimeters. Your self-absorption changes tenor and your partner is often the first to notice an uncertain, indecisiveness to your mood. You become unsure of what you want, how you are doing, and lose confidence in your ability to do this. You answer “I don’t know” to most questions. Your contractions may be 90 seconds long with a reduced rest period between them. Your ability to relax and rest becomes severely challenged. You may have hot and/or cold flashes; you may burp, shake, vomit, and/or not want to be touched. This is when relaxation is most helpful. The goal is to concentrate on a super limp body.

Partners: Although she looks to you like she is doing a fine job, she may begin to lose confidence and lose her rhythm. Remember, the hurdle here is an emotional one. This is your time to give her all of your support, positive encouragement and your confidence. This is often the most blundered part of labor. She will follow your lead. Although it is difficult to have confidence in labor and birth when your experience with it is limited, this is when you need to show her how much you believe in her and in the process (even if it means that you need to exaggerate your confidence). This is a short stage.

Adapted from: Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, by Susan McCutcheon-Rosegg with Peter Rosegg
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Preparing for Labor by Amber