Touched By An Angel
As an Obstetrician/Gynecologist in training I had by this time performed tons of vaginal exams on pregnant women. Although it was my second year in training, our labor floor was always busy and I felt confident managing laboring women. On this particular afternoon a patient presented to our triage unit. She was a patient we had never seen before. She got her prenatal care elsewhere and did not have a copy of her medical records with her. The patient told me that she was 36 weeks (9 months) pregnant and had been experiencing painful contractions every 5 minutes. I inquired about any bleeding issues she had experienced to date and she denied any such event. A quick ultrasound evaluation showed the placenta was not covering the cervical opening. It was the patient’s first pregnancy and she was scared and visibly uncomfortable. I quickly asked for permission to perform a cervical check. What happened next shocked me and has never happened again more than 20 years later.
I reached my fingers in gently and noted that her cervix was 2 centimeters dilated. As I continued the evaluation of the effacement (thinness) of the cervix and where the presenting part was, it happened. I felt the baby use his hand and gently glide my fingers through his grasp. It was as subtle as being touched by a feather. I jumped back and screamed, simultaneously withdrawing my fingers. “It touched me”, I screeched. The mother was noticeably concerned. I took a moment to compose myself. How could this have happened?
I felt terrible about causing the patient to be worried. I reassured her and took the time to show her the baby through ultrasound. She was able to see the baby moving, breathing and most importantly see his heartbeat. I now took time to do the measurements and they were more consistent with 34 weeks (8 months+). This explained a lot! The baby had reached past his head and held my hand through the membranes. The patient was determined to be in preterm labor after my ultrasound agreed with records we had been able to obtain. We managed her preterm labor and she was discharged later.