A bit of backstory before my question:
So, just like last pregnancy, I'm already having a lot of contractions (sometimes it'll be pretty much one solid contraction for a few hours, they come so frequently). I'll be 29 weeks on Thursday- the contractions actually started around 24 weeks but didn't seem TOO worrisome- I wasn't dilating or anything. I've been trying to "take it easy" but it's hard with a two-year-old.
Anyways,last pregnancy in this same situation we went to L&D and they said I was 1 cm dilated and it was a major freak-out and we were stuck at the hospital for 3 days. Daniel didn't come til 8 weeks (of bedrest) later, but we were so freaked out that we went to L&D frequently to find out if labor was progressing. I made it to 8 cm with only these weird, painless contractions, so how on earth was I supposed to know when I was actually in labor?
This time, we're way more laid back about it. Midwife is pretty laid back to being with, and now we know I can contract for 8 weeks straight without having a baby, it's not as scary. That said, every few days I get really bad cramps with the contractions and I get a bit nervous. So Midwife and I agreed I should do my own cervical checks to see if anything is changing. Her theory is it's ok for me to do them because I can be sure not to be too rough or aggravate things. In theory, nothing I'm doing is more intrusive than sex at this point.
I really like having someway of telling whats going on. I know that cervical checks are horrible indicators of impending labor, but... if I'm dilated to beyond a 2 or 3 this early on, that'd be a good indication that we need to take it a bit easier.
I do them every 2-3 days in the shower, while I'm cleanest. Fortunately I have really long fingers. Since I don't have other cervices to compare to, I'm just trying to look for changes.
On Friday, after a day of particularly crampy contractions, I finally felt a change. The cervix had felt like a loose but closed hole- like you'd expect of a cervix that's pushed a baby out before. But now I do believe I'm dilated to a little more than a one- enough I can fit my index finger in it relatively easily. So I called my MW and we scheduled an appt for later in the week. She asked if I felt effaced- heck if I know! It's all just.... squishy, KWIM? I mean, the cervix is easy enough to identify- it's a hole. The hole is still at least a cm deep or so- as far in as I can or am willing to reach (I really don't want to aggravate things so I try to be super gentle).
She also asked if it felt like the baby's head was resting down there. Again, I can't be sure. I have nothing to compare it to. But yes, it does feel like there is something baby-head-like on the other side of the squishiness.
So, after all that story and TMI, my question is:
Who else has done their own cervical checks? Any good insight or resources?
Hopefully I'll get answers from a pro midwife later on this week, even if she has short little fingers
I did a couple of checks on myself when I was pregnant with DS, just because I was curious. I didn't know what I was doing much more than you do,so I don't know if my experience will be helpful...I did find doing it myself much less uncomfortable than having a provider check. I could feel squishyness and a hole. When DS dropped, I could feel a firmness from his head that was different from before, and when I was in labor the hole opened--I couldn't feel effacement or gauge how many centimeters dilated I was.
Yup, I do self checks, especially with the bouts of prodromal labor I am having. It gives me a better clue of if I should pack up the kids or just keep waiting it out. Given that my cervix does move in depth and I DO have limited reach, I just do very basic checks for change - dilation and effacement relative to a known quantity. It works fine for me, in three pregnancies of lots of checks I have never triggered labor, had an infection, rupture, or even any discomfort with self checks. It's no more invasive than sex.
Well, I haven't really done my own checks... But, I do work on a mat ward
If you can easily fit a finger in than I would say your definitely 1cm, possibly closer to 2cm. I'm sure you know, but effacement is the thinning of the cervix. Normally a cervix is 3-4cm long and fairly firm. If it is really squishy your body is changing. You said it is about 1cm "deep" - not knowing how "deep" is was before, I would say you're 50% effaced, give or take. And baby is fairly low if you can easily feel head. To check whether baby is engaged or not, you push on the head to see whether it moves (is ballotable) or is low enough to stay put. Tough to check this yourself though because your probably leaning/reaching around your belly, it presses the baby down further than it would if you were laying.
Hopefully, you don't have any more changes and baby hangs in there like your first did! (8cm and not in labor is crazy!)
I can't feel the head through the cervix- I can only get up there a little bit, but poking near the cervix opening it's not as squishy as it used to be, as if there is something hard back there now. Up until the other day I'd only been checking the cervix opening, so its hard to say if that's very changed from a few weeks ago.
I couldn't possibly reach, but I am glad you are able to tell. Especially since you are early.
Christy birth doula, Hypnobabies instructor, small business owner & most importantly MOMMY.
I didn't do any self checks when pg, but I'm just thinking, can't you check for effacement along the outside of the cervix too? By feeling how far up along the outside of the cervix you can reach?
Could you have your DH do it? This is what I did when I had threatened pre-term. I'm short and have tiny fingers so even without a big baby belly I can't reach my own cervix (or just BARELY). There's no way I could do it while preg. DH got really good at it by the end... could give me a 'you're starting to dilate, it's definitely thinned', etc.
I'd also say that for a multip momma (you've already had a babe), a couple cm's of dilation and a bit of effacement at this point is probably normal. Doesn't necessarily mean 'labour'. I hung out at a 3-4, 50% for a good 6-8 weeks before DS was born, and I've had many clients do the same.
Other than that, the advice already given has been good.
Married to Mark 05.25.07
DD Stella Gabrielle - 12.31.07
DS Sebastien David - 01.06.09
DD Selene 'Lilu' Katherine Alice 03.16.11
Homebirthing, breastfeeding, attachment parenting momma
Unfortunately DH isn't comfortable- he barely tolerates the updates I give him. It's just not his thing (that's ok, he's great in other ways). That and I don't know anyone with longer fingers than mine- I can reach in their pretty well, and I suspect as things move along and my cervix lowers and faces forward a little better it will get easier (but then, my belly will be getting larger, so... we'll see).
And I do know that as a multip that I'd expect it to be a little dilated. What I'm really looking for is changes from previous self-checks. I was 2 cm for 8 weeks, 4 cm for 2 weeks, and 6.5 centimeters for more than a few days last time, so I definitely understand that being open doesn't mean impending labor.
It could, however, let me know if my contractions are doing anything and I therefore need to take it easier so I can last another 7 weeks. Last time I was on full bedrest at this point for the exact same contractions, so my being up and about is kind of an experiment to see if things progress more quickly.