Vaginal Exams Don't Predict Labor

Image Attribution:

Image Attribution:


Beware! Around your 39th week of pregnancy, your OB or midwife will offer or expect you to have a vaginal exam. You should know these exams do not determine when labor will begin but do introduce bacteria, may cause bleeding and cramping, and risk premature rupture of the membranes, which could force an induction if labor doesn't begin within 24 hours.

"Clients often misinterpret the residual symptoms of a vaginal exam for signs of labor starting on its own." - click to tweet!

Once a client called me in tears stating that during an exam at her week 41 appointment, her OB "stripped her membranes" without her permission "to get things going." Ouch!

Unless you are in labor or about to be induced, knowing your dilation or effacement is not helpful. Many clients experience the early stage of labor for days (even weeks) or are a few centimeters dilated without contractions and it doesn't amount to much. Bottom line is: it may hurt, cause issues, and isn't helpful so why endure this highly inaccurate assessment?


Labor is divided into four stages

No one can predict when your body will begin labor. As a reminder, the stages of labor and what to expect for each are below.

  • Stage ONE is further divided into three phases:

    • Phase I: Early labor also called the latent phase.

    • Phase II: Active labor (5cm or 6cm dilation to 8cm)

    • Phase III: Transition (8cm dilation to 10cm or "complete")

  • Stage TWO: also called the pushing stage.

  • Stage THREE: the birth of your placenta.

  • Stage FOUR: the hour after birth.

For an overview of labor and birth with suggestions for progress and comfort, keep this webpage linked from your phone.


Stay in the know

The Happiest Doulas maintains a Pinterest board, Labor & Birth Support; Tips from Doulas, Midwives, and Educators. Follow it for more labor and birth tips from trusted resources around the world. Happy Pinning! 

Be well and happy,


Related articles:
Labor Tips For Birth Partners
Why I Left Labor & Delivery
So You Need An Induction, Eh?
AROM: To Break or Not To Break