If you have symptoms of preterm labor, your
doctor or nurse-midwife may examine you by feeling your
cervix. If your contractions continue over a period of
hours, you may be examined periodically to see whether your cervix is opening
(dilating) or thinning (effacing).
These exams allow your health
Vaginal exams are done when a
pregnant woman has:
Preterm labor is diagnosed when a woman who
is 20 to 37 weeks pregnant has uterine contractions and her cervix has changed,
as seen with a vaginal exam.
Preterm labor is not diagnosed if
contractions are occurring but the cervix is not becoming thinner or more
When the amniotic membranes rupture early (preterm premature rupture of membranes, or pPROM), sterile speculum exams are
kept to a minimum, and digital exams are avoided. This is meant to reduce the
risk of infecting the uterus and fetus.
When the placenta is known
to be overlapping or covering the cervix (placenta previa), vaginal exams are completely avoided. Disturbing the placenta
can trigger bleeding.
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ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofMarch 16, 2017
Current as of:
March 16, 2017
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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Last modified on: 8 September 2017