Melodie emailed me and asked,
How do you/will you check your cervical dilation? (I'm sure you must know how to do this. It's one thing I never figured out and since I have had midwife attended births I never felt the need to know). Or will you even check it? Will you instead just wait for the instinctual need to push and not bother with checking dilation? Have you read "The Rule of 10 Versus Women's Primal Wisdom?" This article really spoke to me and I wondered if it resonated with you too.
I will probably not check my dilation. I actually have no idea why I keep dreaming about dilation because it was never a factor in Margaret's birth.
I didn't check my dilation during Margaret's birth for two reasons:
- I didn't want to find out that 12 hours of back labor had done nothing for my cervix. I'm pretty sure that the reason my labor was so long was because Margaret was not putting pressure on my cervix evenly because of a slight malposition issue, despite the fact that she was anterior and head down. The fact that 2 dawns happened with no baby in my arms was discouraging enough. I didn't want to find out I was only at a 4. But most importantly,
- I don't believe in 10 centimeters.
I once tried to find out where "10 centimeters" came from. I expected to find some study that took X amount of women in labor and stopped them during their pushing stage so that the researcher could stick a measuring tape up there and find out how dilated they were. Then I expected the study to analyze that data, giving us a mean and median near 10 centimeters.
But I didn't find that study. I don't think it's out there, although if it is, I would definitely be interested in it- send it my way!
What I did find, I mentioned in this blog post: namely a page suggesting that it's possible for women to get to 13 centimeters (!) and another page saying that "10 centimeters" comes from the measurement of the diameter of a newborn's head.
Now, I'm just a lowly mommy blogger with a degree in mathematics, but basing cervical dilation on the diameter of the head after it passes through it doesn't make sense to me at all. In general, women are one-size-fits-all. Women have vaginally birthed babies with large heads, babies with broad shoulders, babies whose birth weights are above 10 pounds. And then there's the baby, whose skull plates mold and even overlap to fit through the birth canal. And how soon are they measuring these heads? Margaret's was very very molded- moreso than any baby I've ever seen, but within hours it was going back to round- and within a day you could never tell it was once elongated.
I have seen the "Rule of Ten..." article you linked to, and I agree: some women are probably ready to push at 8 or even 6 centimeters. I would also say that 10 is no upper bound for cervices. Instructing or coaching a woman to push once she gets to 10 centimeters could mean hours of ineffective "purple pushing" if she's an 11 or 12 centimeter women. And my guess? It's probably different for each birth. Maybe a woman needs to get to 10 centimeters for one birth, but only 9 for another.
I do think it's important to know how to check your dilation, though. I never felt compelled to check mine during Margaret's labor, but I can't say I won't ever feel the need to in the future. It's also important to know the dimensions of your fingers. Ten centimeters is 4 inches- be familiar with the width of your hand and fingers because "2 fingers" for one person is "3 fingers" for another. Also, being able to recognize and reach your cervix is important. It's a useful skill for fertility awareness and I think it's important for women to be familiar with their bodies. Also, if you practice feeling your cervix throughout your pregnancy, you'll maintain flexibility. If you can reach your cervix, you can bend over and catch your own baby whether or not you originally planned to. Sometimes midwives don't make it on time and sometimes hospitals are just 5 minutes too far away. Knowing that you have the flexibility to catch your own baby can help you stay calm in a situation you didn't originally plan for.
I check my cervix when I shower because I know my fingers are clean at that time. Right now, my cervix is too high up for me to actually feel it, but I also have short fingers. Most descriptions of the cervix say that it's "hard" like the tip of your nose. As you near your due date, it softens to be like lips. This happens earlier if you've had more than one pregnancy. The "hardness" of your cervix also changes throughout your monthly cycle. The beautiful cervix project features images of the cervix throughout the month and even during pregnancy. Those might be helpful to you or even your partner if you'd like for them to know how to check your dilation, too.