Resume pelvic exams

As your due date approaches, your prenatal visits might include pelvic exams. These exams help your health care provider check the baby's position and detect cervical changes.

Check the baby's position
Near the end of pregnancy, your health care provider can feel your baby's head in your lower abdomen or at the top of the birth canal.

If your baby is positioned headfirst, you're good to go.

If your baby is positioned rump-first or feet-first (breech), your health care provider might try to turn the baby by applying pressure to your abdomen. This procedure is known as an external cephalic version.

If your baby remains in a breech position, you might need a C-section delivery.

Detect cervical changes
As your body prepares for birth, your cervix will begin to soften, open (dilate) and thin (efface). Progress is typically expressed in centimeters (cm) and percentages.

For example, your cervix might be 3 centimeters dilated and 30 percent effaced. When you're ready to push your baby out, your cervix will be 10 centimeters dilated and 100 percent effaced.

Resist the temptation to put much stock in these numbers. You could be dilated to 3 centimeters for weeks — or you might go into labor without any dilation or effacement at all.

Keep asking questions

You might have plenty of questions as your due date approaches.

Is it OK to have sex? How will I know when I'm in labor? What's the best way to manage the pain? Should I create a birth plan?

Ask away! Feeling prepared can help calm your nerves before delivery.

Aug. 04, 2012 See more In-depth