what does being 2 centimeters dilated mean?

So you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy and your doctor or midwife “checks you” and you find out that you’re 2 centimeters dilated. What does it mean? When will you have your baby?

Well, your labor could start today, tomorrow or not for another month. Cervical dilation is not a good indication of when exactly you will have your baby.

You can be 36, 37, or 38 weeks pregnant, 2 centimeters dilated and not have your baby for several weeks. Or you can be 2 centimeters dilated and be in very early labor or pre-labor having a couple contractions an hour and maybe have a baby within the next couple days. Or you can be 2 centimeters dilated and be having very long, hard contractions that are close together. In this last scenario, you will have your baby very soon. You can actually be in late labor or in transition, but your cervix hasn’t caught up yet and is showing early labor.

I’ve heard a few women say that they got the epidural, but it didn’t take effect until after the baby was born. The contractions were overwhelming and they just couldn’t handle labor anymore especially when they got checked and their cervix was found to only be 2 cm, 3 cm, or 4 cm dilated. They ordered the epidural and as they waited for the anesthesiologist to show up, they had the baby.

So remember, you can’t predict when your baby will be born based on the dilation of your cervix. Dilation doesn’t happen in a standard, uniform way.

You will find additional clarification of when your labor may start by reading  cervical dilation 101:frequently asked questions and How long does it take the cervix to dilate 5 centimeters?