Home > Health Library > Vaginal Exam for Preterm Labor
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.
Complete the medical test information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerWilliam Gilbert, MD - Maternal and Fetal Medicine
Current as ofMay 22, 2015
Current as of:
May 22, 2015
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & William Gilbert, MD - Maternal and Fetal Medicine
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