During labour, your health professional will examine your progress by
putting on sterile gloves and inserting his or her fingers into your
vagina. This allows the health professional to:
Determine how much your
cervix has thinned (effaced) and opened (dilated). How
dilated and stretched your cervix is during contractions can be helpful in
predicting the speed of your labour.
Assess the baby's position, whether head-first
(vertex) or bottom-first (breech), and determine how far the baby has moved
down the birth canal (station).
Gently push on the baby's head with
one finger. If the head can be pushed back, the baby is still floating
(ballotable). If the head cannot be pushed back and is low in the pelvis, the
head is engaged.
Check whether the baby is
facing toward your navel or toward your backbone in the birth canal. This can
only be done after your water (amniotic sac) breaks (ruptures). A baby
facing toward the mother's navel sometimes has a slower, more difficult time
moving down the birth canal.