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Cynthia FlynnSelf Internal Exams
by Cynthia Flynn, CNM, Ph.D.

Q. A friend of mine said she was able to check to see how far she was dilated while in labor and that was how she knew when it was time to go to the hospital. Is this even safe? And how would you go about doing it-what would you check for?

A. Most women who are 40 weeks pregnant are not limber enough to reach where they need to be. The bigger issue is the possible risks. You can actually break the bag of waters if you don't know what you are doing. Rupturing the membranes at the wrong time can potentially result in a prolapsed cord, in which case you have about 5 minutes to get the cesarean done before the baby is in serious trouble.

The other risk, which is reduced somewhat with good hand washing and a well-washed momma, is of introducing infection. Good practitioners do as few exams (with sterile gloves) as possible in order to avoid unnecessary exams. Finally, you should never put ANYTHING in the vagina if there is even the remotest possibility that the membranes are ruptured or leaking even a little.

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