Near the end of your pregnancy, it is common for practitioners to check your cervix at each appointment. Sometimes the nurse you see during the appointment will ask for permission to check your cervix. Other times the procedure will just be done as a matter of fact -- ie, "We'll be checking your cervix at this appointment." Increasingly, some care providers are doing little or no cervical checks at all, or offering it by request only.
Until recently (and even still today in certain areas), cervical checks were performed routinely at appointments during the end of pregnancy and throughout labor and birth to check the progress of dilation, effacement, and baby's station. Most people endured this procedure as something that's just always performed during prenatal care.
So why all the fuss about declining this procedure? Well, for starters, it's uncomfortable! Toward the end of pregnancy, vaginal tissue becomes more sensitive, so a cervical exam (which is not known for being gentle) can feel uncomfortable or even painful.
Second, a cervical exam introduces foreign bacteria inside your vaginal canal and near your cervical opening, which increases the risk of infection.
And third (and this one is big), cervical checks do not determine how close you are to going into labor or giving birth! 3cm dilation at 37 weeks does not necessarily mean you'll go into labor "any day." 4cm dilation when you've been in labor for several hours does not necessarily mean you won't give birth in the next few hours.
How far dilated and effaced you are is not reliable for predicting when you will go into labor or how much longer your labor will last. So, as curious as you might be to know your dilation and effacement toward the end of your pregnancy, it's important to know that what you can find out does won't tell you much regarding the timing of labor or birth.
The only time a cervical check may be helpful is if you are over a week past your due date and your health care provider is trying to determine if induction is appropriate.
If your care provider is requesting a cervical check, you have the right to decline the procedure. If they are insisting on it, find out why. You still have the right to decline. There may be a good medical reason. If not and your preference is to not have one, let your provider know.
Will you decline a cervical check? Why or why not?