Introduction: Clinical practice audits present an opportunity for providers to examine and reflect on their practice. Vaginal examinations are an integral part of intrapartum care but can be uncomfortable for women and can increase the risk of chorioamnionitis. Thus, vaginal examinations should be performed thoughtfully and for necessary reasons.
Methods: A busy midwifery service at a large academic center underwent an audit of the number of vaginal examinations performed in labor for 205 women admitted in spontaneous labor or with spontaneous rupture of membranes. The retrospective chart audit was performed by research midwives who queried 2 electronic medical record databases, 1 for provider progress notes and 1 for nursing notes.
Results: On average, a woman underwent 4 vaginal examinations during labor, a rate greater than the World Health Organization recommendation of 1 examination every 4 hours during the first stage. The rate of presumed chorioamnionitis in this group of healthy, low-risk women was 6%, and women with this diagnosis averaged 7 vaginal examinations.
Discussion: After presentation and discussion of the audit findings, the midwives expressed appreciation for the opportunity to explore such a fundamental element of clinical practice and a heightened awareness of the importance of performing and documenting vaginal examinations. Audits of a similar nature in other midwifery practices are needed, as are studies exploring rates and possible modifiable causes of chorioamnionitis in low-risk women.