How is a pelvic exam performed to evaluate normal labor?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019
  • Author: Sarah Hagood Milton, MD; Chief Editor: Christine Isaacs, MD  more...
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Pelvic examination is often performed using sterile gloves to decrease the risk of infection. If membrane rupture is suspected, examination with a sterile speculum is performed to visually confirm pooling of amniotic fluid in the posterior fornix. The examiner also looks for fern on a dried sample of the vaginal fluid under a microscope and checks the pH of the fluid by using a nitrazine stick or litmus paper, which turns blue if the amniotic fluid is alkalotic. If frank bleeding is present, pelvic examination should be deferred until placenta previa is excluded with ultrasonography. Furthermore, the pattern of contraction and the patient's presenting history may provide clues about placental abruption.

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