Why is a digital exam performed 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 of the vagina allows the clinician to determine the following: (1) the degree of cervical dilatation, which ranges from 0 cm (closed or fingertip) to 10 cm (complete or fully dilated), (2) the effacement (assessment of the cervical length, which is can be reported as a percentage of the normal 3- to 4-cm-long cervix or described as the actual cervical length); actual reporting of cervical length may decrease potential ambiguity in percent-effacement reporting, (3) the position, ie, anterior or posterior, and (4) the 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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