Vaginal Examinations in Homebirth

In this episode, I talk about Vaginal Exams, you may know them as VE’s. VE’s is a common practice in childbirth that involve checking the cervix for dilation and effacement.

Listen to this podcast episode below

Inaccuracy, Risk of Infection, and More: Understanding the Downside of Vaginal Examinations

In this episode, I dive into a topic that often goes unquestioned in childbirth: Vaginal Examinations, commonly known as VE’s. These exams, which involve checking the cervix for dilation and effacement, have long been considered a standard practice. However, emerging evidence challenges their usefulness and raises concerns about their potential harm. Here are some key reasons why vaginal examinations are not helpful in birth:

Inaccuracy: Vaginal examinations are notoriously inaccurate and subjective. Different practitioners may have different interpretations of the same examination, leading to inconsistencies in care. Additionally, a woman’s cervix may be dilated or effaced in one moment but then return to a previous state, making the information gained from a VE unreliable.

Risk of infection: The use of gloves during vaginal examinations does not eliminate the risk of infection, and the introduction of bacteria can be harmful to the mother and baby. Research has shown that the risk of infection increases with the frequency of VE’s.

Pain and discomfort: Vaginal examinations can be painful and uncomfortable, and can cause anxiety and stress in women during labour. This can lead to a release of stress hormones that can slow down labor and make it more difficult.

Distracts from intuition: The focus on dilation and effacement can distract practitioners from other important signs and signals that indicate progress in labor, such as the position of the baby, the frequency and strength of contractions, and the mother’s intuition.

Potential for unnecessary interventions: VE’s can lead to unnecessary interventions, such as artificial rupture of membranes or induction of labour, based on the assumption that the labor is not progressing as it should. However, these interventions can increase the risk of complications and interventions, such as c-section.


Illuminating Perspectives

If you’re eager to delve deeper into this fascinating subject, I highly recommend reading an insightful article written by my mentor, Dr. Rachel Reed, here.

It sheds light on the intricacies surrounding vaginal examinations in childbirth.

Enjoy this episode and join me in questioning the role of VE’s in our approach to birth.


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