What is the role of a digital exam in the evaluation of normal labor?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019
  • Author: Sarah Hagood Milton, MD; Chief Editor: Christine Isaacs, MD  more...
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Digital examination allows the clinician to determine the following aspects of the cervix:

  • Degree of dilatation, which ranges from 0 cm (closed or fingertip) to 10 cm (complete or fully dilated)

  • Effacement (assessment of the cervical length, which can be reported as a percentage of the normal 3- to 4-cm–long cervix or described as the actual cervical length)

  • Position (ie, anterior or posterior)

  • Consistency (ie, soft or firm)

Palpation of the presenting part of the fetus allows the examiner to establish its station, by quantifying the distance of the body (-5 to +5 cm) that is presenting relative to the maternal ischial spines, where 0 station is in line with the plane of the maternal ischial spines. [2]

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