The routine tests you’ll have during your pregnancy do not include an internal exam (inside your vagina). If your pregnancy is uncomplicated, your healthcare professionals will only ask to do an internal exam after you have gone into labour. This is done to check how far your cervix has opened, which will tell them how advanced your labour is. Your doctor or midwife should ask your permission and explain why you are being offered an internal examination.
You will be offered a membrane sweep (also known as a cervical sweep) towards the end of your pregnancy (around 40-41 weeks) if it looks like your baby will be late. This involves your midwife putting a finger inside your vagina to reach your cervix and gently making sweeping movements to separate the membranes. This can help kick-start your labour. Membrane sweeps don’t hurt, but you may feel a bit uncomfortable afterwards.
Speculum and/or vaginal examinations
You may have an internal examination if there are any concerns in your pregnancy, such as if your doctor or midwife believes you have an infection, if you have any bleeding, or if you are unsure if your waters have broken.
You may have what’s called a speculum examination. This is when a small instrument covered in gel is inserted into the vagina. This allows the doctor or midwife to check if there is any cause for the bleeding, or confirm if your waters have broken. It isn’t painful but it can sometimes be uncomfortable.
You may also have an internal examination if your midwife or doctor thinks that you are in early labour.
Tell your healthcare professional if you feel any pain during an internal examination.