Childbirth: Vaginal Exams During Labor

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Topic Overview

During labor, your health professional will examine your progress. He or she will put on sterile gloves and insert his or her fingers into your vagina. This allows the health professional to:

  • Find out how much your cervix has thinned (effaced) and opened (dilated). How dilated and stretched your cervix is during contractions can help predict the speed of your labor.
  • Check the baby's position. Is the baby coming out head-first or bottom-first (breech)? How far has the baby moved down the birth canal?
  • Gently push on the baby's head with one finger. If the head can be pushed back, the baby is still floating. If the head can't be pushed back and is low in the pelvis, it is engaged in the birth canal.
  • Check to see which way the baby is facing in the birth canal. Is the baby face-up toward your navel? Or is the baby facing down toward your backbone? This check can only be done after your water (amniotic sac) breaks (ruptures). A baby facing up toward the mother's navel sometimes has a slower, harder time moving down the birth canal.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofOctober 29, 2015