Do I need cervical checks during labor?

Cervical checks can vary based on institution. It is definitely true that more cervical checks lead to an increased risk of infection. That being said, some checks are necessary to determine labor progress. We can optimize the risk/benefit ratio. Checking every two hours is common in some practices but is usually not necessary. In the latent phase of labor, from 0-6 cm, checking every X amount of hours is not necessary. If you are being induced and you have a cervical ripening agent in, like a cervical medication or a catheter balloon, then at the time of placement you are checked and the next check should occur when a decision is being made: for example, do you need another dose of medication or can the catheter be removed? This may be many hours (usually at least four hours).

How often the cervix is checked should be based on patient feedback (feeling more pressure, contractions getting stronger/closer together, etc.), and no more often than every four hours usually in latent labor. Even in active labor, from 6-10 cm, we don’t worry about “failure to progress” until four hours of no cervical change. Therefore, we can check at four hours and usually still have all of the information necessary to determine if something should be done about slow labors.  Remember, sometimes there is a good reason to check more often, especially if you get towards the end and continue to feel a lot of pressure or even begin feeling the urge to push. We want to check you as few times as necessary while still making sure we can monitor your progress.

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