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what does being 2 centimeters dilated mean? January 22, 2007

Posted by guinever in : babies, birth, labor, pregnancy , trackback

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, 3, or 4 centimeters 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.

Feel free to ask a question and then check back later for an answer, but please don’t ask me when I think you are going to have your baby or if your doctor will induce you because I don’t know. (these questions could be deleted and will not be answered)

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?
For more articles about pregnancy and birth, please refer to my welcome page.
If you enjoy reading birth stories, you might like
diary of a primipara
my second birth: a lot quicker than my first
the labor that kept on stopping
born in our living room

Related Posts with Thumbnails


1. Kareemah - March 1, 2009

hi, i am 30 weeks pregnant and having cramping like eriods they hurt worse by the day… i went to the do. a couple of weeks ago they said i’ve dilated 1.25 and the baby has dropped into my pelvis area he says i’m soft but not too soft…and i ave no idea what he means… i have ightening and cramps sometimes to the point were i start sweating and somedays i’m nauseated… i look at the least two months smaller than i did before she dropped… i drink plenty of water and eat healthly but i keep thinking she’ll come early! i’m always cramping and sick now do you think i am still dilating or are these painfull cramping braxton hicks?!

oh yeah i think i lost my mucous plug – something gross that my nurse described to me was floating in the bath… i know that’s nasty but she said it’d look like snot and it did… i also feel kinda moist down there and wanted to know if you thought my water bags was leaking…and lastly(hopefully)…if i am still dilating and go into active labor will it be too late to get the steroid shot to help her lungs… p.s i’ve been like this for a month or so…the cramping i should say but now it’s worse

Kareemah, yes, it sounds like you lost your mucous plug. The mucous plug sometimes will re-make itself over time if you don’t go into labor when you lose it. Your water may have broken, but that would be more of a trickle here and there rather just being moist–you’d be leaking once in awhile, during contractions or if you move. You can get that checked for sure at the doc’s office.

You asked if you were dilated or having braxton hicks. It’s not an either/or. Braxton hicks contractions DO soften and dilate your cervix. Sometimes, though, you can have lots of contractions and “nothing happens.”

In order for the steroid shots to effectively work, you need 2 doses at least 3 hours apart with enough time for that second dose to work. So it would really depend on how long your active labor is and whether or not you would have time for the steroid shots.

Are you getting enough calcium in your diet? Calcium can help to relax your muscles (including the uterus.)
~hope you stay pregnant a few more weeks, Guinever

2. Layan - March 10, 2009

Hi Guinever,
I am presently at 38wks 2days and today my doc said that I was dilated 2cm and the cervix was very soft and the babies head is very low. I had some contractions over the weekend but that’s about it. This is my first and I would like to try to do things as naturally as possible even though I will be in a hospital. However I am worried about the pain. I have been taking my a pregnancy tea again since the contractions started on Saturday. It contains raspberry leaf as the first ingredient. I’ve also been eating dates and plan to use natural coconut water for hydration during labor instead of Gatorade or other fake stuff.
What other herbs and foods would be good for me to take at this time and also during the labor? PS I am in no rush to naturally induce I just want it to go well.

Layan, it sounds like you have a good plan in place…Just keep eating and drinking healthy for a strong pregnancy. ~blessings, Guinever

3. NATASHA SNELL - March 14, 2009


Natasha, You didn’t say how often your braxton hicks are coming. If you have been having several an hour for awhile, then you could be in labor and therefore should go to the hospital immediately since you are only 30 weeks along. But if you’re just having a 40-50 second long contraction a couple times a day when you’re active or hungry, then there’s nothing to worry about. ~blessings, Guinever

4. Kareemah - March 15, 2009

so i guess my question is the only one that gets no response

I’ll go look for your question. Trust me, your question is not the only one that hasn’t gotten a response lately. I have over 75 questions built up right now. I am only one person with a lot of personal responsibilities.

5. Sarah - April 4, 2009

Hello, This is my third pregnancy, I am 37 weeks and 2 days pregnant, I am 2 cm dilated and I am cramping and having pressure. Does it mean that I could be going into labor?

Sarah, it sounds like you could be in early labor. It is also possible that the pressure and cramping will stop for now and then you’ll have your baby later. Only time will tell. ~blessings, Guinever

6. Lynda Lynch - April 14, 2009

I am 39 wks and 4 days with baby number 2. I had my second stretch and sweep done this morning and he said I was a ‘good’ 2 cm which is one more cm than last week. Do you think that I could go into labour today, I am losing what I think is my plug since this morning but no ‘bloody show’ I was induced with my 1st at 10 past due and did not experience anything natural like the show or my waters breaking. Will this be the same, I am just not to sure what to expect. I know that you don’t have the answers to everything as everyone is different but I would appreciate your opinion very much.

Lynda, a lot of times with a sweep, a woman has many hours (sometimes 2 days) of light, persistent contractions before active labor kicks in. *If* your baby and body are ready for labor, the sweep might put you into labor today or in the next couple of days. It’s also possible that you could have a day of light contractions and then they stop….only time will tell. ~blessings, Guinever

7. Nora - May 17, 2009

I’m almost 41 weeks and my doc told me that I was about 1cm dialated and that the baby’s head had dropped already. Is that good or would they have to do a c-sec?

Dear Nora, please don’t plan a c-section if both you and baby are healthy! Being dropped and 1 cm dilated is great. Be patient; you’ll keep progressing and soon enough, you’ll have your baby in your arms. ~blessings, Guinever

8. kk - May 17, 2009

i am 33 weeks and 1cm dilated and my baby is very low. i feel my baby movements in really bottom. how long it will take me to diliver this baby.this is my 2nd child

dear kk, I would hope that you have many more weeks with baby inside you since you’re only 33 weeks. It’s totally normal to be dilated a little bit and carrying your baby low and still go full term. ~blessings, Guinever

9. Geneveive - May 27, 2009

my first e.d.d. was supposed to be june 8th according to my menstrual cycle. at that appointment (9 weeks) i had an ultrasound and my doctor moved it back to june 16th because “the baby was measuring small”. My first question would be, can they really tell at 9 weeks? So now im 37 weeks according to my June 16th due date, but i just got back from the doctor and I have some questions about what she told me. They’ve told me everytime that the baby has dropped and is in the correct position for birth. I told them today that Ive been experiencing cramping and pains so she decided to do an internal exam. During the exam she said the baby has dropped, the head was VERY low and that i was engaged. Whats the difference between being engaged and dialate? And does this mean that I could possibly deliver by my first due date?

Genevieve (love your name, by the way =)
The most accurate dating of a pregnancy would be with an early ultrasound like you had at 9 weeks. Being engaged refers to the position of the baby (in your case, “low”) and the dilation refers to your cervix opening. ~blessings, Guinever

10. Leah - July 18, 2009

I’m 35 weeks today (18 July, 2009) and my midwife checked me to see if I’m dilating at all. Which I am. She said I am 2 cm dilated. I was wondering how far along you think it will be till birth? I am pregnant with my first, it’s twins, I’m 19 and my mucus plug has been falling out for the past few weeks. And I’ve had random contracts some closer than others.

Dear Leah, twins usually come early so I’d say you’ll have be birthing your babies sooner rather than later. I can’t really tell you when exactly, though. Only time will tell. ~blessings, Guinever

11. Pamela - July 21, 2009

hi, I am Pamela and 35 weeks along and am 4cm dilated and 70 percent effaced. I went to the ER today and was having contractions and have now lost my mucous plug. The dr has put me on complete bedrest and on Procardia to relax the uterus. Is it really possible for me to hold on for another week at this rate. I dilated from 3-4 in just a matter of hours during my visit to the ER.

Dear Pamela, it’s possible that you might carry your baby to term, but just as equally possible that you’ll have your baby much sooner. Only time will tell. ~blessings, Guinever

12. Stephanie - July 24, 2009

I am 38 weeks 5 days today. I went for a cervical check at my last appointment and she told me I was 4 cm 80% and 0 station. I have been having painful contractions, but they are irregular. Some 5-6 min apart aome 15-20 min apart. She also noted that the baby was VERY low. Could this mean I’m close to the real thing? I have been in L&D several times for false labor and I don’t want to go back till I’m sure the baby is on the way…

Stephanie, what you are describing sounds like early labor. Often contractions jump around like that and don’t settle into a pattern into active labor is established. Wait for them to be more intense before going to the hospital. ~blessings, Guinever

13. a - July 25, 2009

I am 36 weeks and a day losing mucus plug for 2 1/2 weeks and soft high and dialated to 1 cm with my 4 th baby. I have been having diarrea and alot of pressure and contractions is their a possibility i could go into labor before my due date?

Most definitely you could go into labor before your due date, or what is happening now, could just be a bout of pre-labor and you might continue in your pregnancy for several more weeks. ~blessings, Guinever

14. a - July 30, 2009

I am having a lot of nausea and lower pelvic and back pains. I am also getting swelling in my right leg. When i went to the dr. my last visit she didn’t check me. Could i dialte faster this time, neing that this is my 4th baby within 6 years?

15. Beth - July 31, 2009

Hi, I am 40 weeks pregnant and only 3.5 cm dialated with the babys head being at -2 and 50 percent effaced. I am scared because the doctor wants to induce my labor, this is my second baby and my first one was born 4 days late with no induction. What should I do?

Dear Beth, I’m sorry that you are scared right now. Provided that you and baby are doing great, ask your doctor if you can wait a few more days. Remind him that your first baby was 4 days “late,” and you’d like to wait for this labor to start by itself as well. Think positive thoughts. This really helps. Put induction out of your mind and concentrate on starting labor and birthing your baby. ~blessings, Guinever

16. a - July 31, 2009

I had some spotting and i never notice it before with my other pregnancies. does it mean i am going to go into labor soon?

dear a, spotting can happen after a vaginal exam or intercourse or it can happen as dilation progresses. It can be a sign of impending labor very soon, but not always. ~blessings, Guinever

17. a - August 3, 2009

I am a little confused the dr. said i was 50% in the front and 75% on the side. I was just wondering what that means?

a, this just means that your cervix is not dilating/effacing uniformly or equally on all sides. Nothing to be concerned about; this is totally normal=) ~blessings, Guinever

18. Ashley - August 8, 2009

HI I am 37 weeks pregnant and I went to the doctor yesterday and he told me that I was 1-2CM dilated and 50% effaced and he said that he could feel her head. Im not having any regular contractions. Do you have any ideas as to what can help things move along.

Dear Ashley, no need to *do* anything. You’re only 37 weeks and progressing very nicely. You may have your baby this week or not for another few weeks. But with that said, walking and having sex are very benefical at this stage of pregnancy. ~blessings, Guinever

19. kristen - August 12, 2009

I am 34 weeks pregnant with my second baby. I have had contractions for the past 6 weeks which hurt quite a bit. I am one centimeter dilated and long according to my dr. The contractions can last several hours. I am nauseated and extremely tired. Can I expect this through the next 6 weeks? I also am being treated for a bacteria infection. Doc told me no sex or vigorous exercise. Can you tell me why? don’t know if it’s because of the infection or what. thanks

Dear Kristen, your doctor’s advice could be because of the infection or it could be because both of those activities encourage contractions and dilation. ~blessings, Guinever

20. Sola - August 13, 2009

I love your advice and its real helpful and educating. Gpd bless. I am 38 wks pregnant my baby is pushing down my pelvics and my buts hurt but no back pain. Do you have and idea of this case.

Sounds like your baby is getting lower and putting pressure in those areas. You could also be experiencing braxton hicks contractions.~blessings, Guinever

21. tiffany self - September 14, 2009

i’m 38.2 weeks. this is my third pregnancy. first pregnancy had 1 baby, second had twins… both vaginally. i am closed, thick and high still?? isn’t that rare? sex has not been on the agenda due to a very swollen vagina with varicosities (benefits from having twins) I hurt so much in my vagina and worry about this during labor, particularly the pushing part. i am very frustrated that i am not showing any signs of my cervix softening/dilating, being a G3… My due date is accurated since I know when I conceived.

22. Heather - November 16, 2009

I am 33 weeks and I have been in and out the hospital for 7 weeks. I was 2 cm the last 2 weeks and I went to my doctor today he said that I was closed back up. Is that normal?

23. Briana - December 2, 2009

I am 2 centimeters dilated
and I am only 36 weeks
how long can I stay in 2 centimeters
and wath can help open more

24. guinever - December 5, 2009

Yes, it’s totally normal to close back up if you’ve been on bedrest a lot. When the baby isn’t putting as much pressure on your cervix, it can close.

25. guinever - December 5, 2009

Softening and dilating doesn’t always happen before labor starts. It is very possible that you’ll just open right up once you and baby are ready for labor. Don’t worry too much about it. Your baby will come.

26. guinever - December 5, 2009

Dear Briana, you could just continue to dilate slowly over the next few weeks before you go into labor. Or you could be 2 cm when you go into labor. Labor can really happen for you in the next 5 weeks. Just keep doing what you’re doing–no need to worry about opening more just yet since you’re only 36 weeks along.

27. cupcake - December 9, 2009

hi just come home from hospital and was told im 2 cm dilated and my cervix is closed but very soft , im having on off iregular peroid pains & ive had a show, im on my 5 baby she also said to me she dont think ill last till 38 weeks

It sounds like you might have your baby soon. Just hang in there. ~blessings, Guinever

28. Angel - December 16, 2009

Guinever, I’m 37 weeks and 3 days. I went to the doctors today and she told me that I was 1-2 cm dilated and that the babys head was low, and my cervix was thin but she didn’t say how then. This is my first baby so I have no clue how things are supposed to move along. I haven’t felt any painful contractions that I know of. The only thing that I’ve felt is what feels like the baby is balling up and my stomach gets really hard, and I’ve felt a lot of pressure in my private. What is happening? Are these contractions?

Angel, your progression sounds great. Your cervix is well on it’s way to being ready for labor once it’s start. The things that describe definitely sound like contractions. When your labor starts, the contractions will get progressively longer and stronger. ~blessings, Guinever

29. Angel - December 17, 2009

Guinever, I woke up this morning with extremely painful period cramps. and when I went to the bathroom I believe I lost my plug, but it wasn’t alot of mucos. When you lose your mucos plug how much mucos is there?

Angel, it varies. Sometimes, the plug comes out in one large piece. Other times it just breaks away gradually so that you don’t even realize that you’ve lost your plug. So it could be that this is what has happened with you. ~blessings, Guinever

30. Janell Clements - January 6, 2010

Guinever, This is my first pregnancy and im scared because i dont know when im havin contratractions or what all this stuff about dilated mean. Like i feel cramps sometimes but then sometimes i think its the baby balling up in my stomach which i dont knw know is normal or not. but can you help me understand more about contractions and dilations? My doctor told me i was 2cm dilated which means what?

Hi Janell, that’s great that you’re already 2 cm dilated. The thing where it feels like the baby balling up is most likely a contraction. And that’s totally normal. Once you feel them becoming more intense and coming consistently then you’ll be in labor. But right now when you just have them once in awhile, they’re just braxton hicks contractions which prepare your uterus for birth and start your cervix softening and dilating. ~blessings, Guinever

31. bolanle - January 18, 2010

Guinever, with my first baby (R.I.P), i was sectioned after 26hrs of labour, i was just 4cm, though they started to induce me ,i only went up to 5cm and since i had PROM, FHR was crazy, they had to stop and section me. I’m 33wks 2 days now and i’m hoping to have a VBAC, i really don’t know what to expect, i don’t know why i didn’t progress for so long and i’m hoping this time it will be a 15mins thing like i’ve seen some women do. any tip will help

I’m rather unclear the sequence of your labor. Did everything start with an induction or did it start with your water breaking (PROM)? Don’t count on this labor only taking 15 minutes=) When your body is ready, your labor will start and your labor will progress. Some labors are quicker than other labors. If you were induced and your labor didn’t progress, it’s because they didn’t give you enough time or you and baby just weren’t ready. Like I said, I don’t have enough info about your last labor to really know what happened and why. Chances are your second birth will be a lot different. You asked for a tip and my tip is this: hire a doula if you want a VBAC especially if you don’t understand a lot about labor and birth. ~blessings, Guinever

32. Taj - January 22, 2010

Guinever, I was given steroid injections at 30 weeks to help develop my babies lungs, because I was 3 cm dilated, and contracting. The doctors were able to stop my labor, and I have now made it to 39 weeks with the help of bedrest, but I am huge. Since my baby did not come prematurely will the injections cause my baby to be larger?

Taj, I don’t think that the amount of steroids your baby was given can produce an unusually big baby=) I want to reassure you that you can birth your baby.
~blessings, Guinever

33. Jessica - February 17, 2010

I am now 36 wks, 4 days pregnant with my first. I was “checked” on Wednesday and told I was 50% effaced and not yet dilating, but over the past few days it has become easier to have sex. Could this mean I am beginning to dilate or is it something else?

Jessica, it is more likely the baby changing position that makes sex easier rather than dilation. ~blessings, Guinever

34. Leanne - February 18, 2010

I am 40 weeks and 3 days, I think I have been losing my musocs plug over a few days, and around 1am There was blood there when I wiped a few times, I have being having bad back pain. Went to hospital and they did a internal exam, doctor said I am 2 cm dialted but that is normal for 2nd pregnancies? Midwife said that I’d be back tonight since I’ve had this internal exam now. I still have such bad back pain and now very crampy and painful down there. Does that mean Im in early labour and it’ll happen now?? The baby face is face up, same as my first pregnancy, so putting pressure on my back. What can I do to get teh labour going a bit more. Walk around? I have a heat pack on my back and I have taken panadol and had a sleep from 9- 1pm to get some rest. Now I just want him out. Its getting painful and uncomfortable.

Leanne, it sounds like you’re probably in early labor. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Soon active labor will start and then you’ll have your baby. ~blessings, Guinever

35. Jessi - February 19, 2010

I am 38 weeks, 2 days pregnant with my first and I was wondering if there were any ways to get the baby’s head to drop lower down. I’m barely dilating at all and I’m due February 10. If I don’t dilate enough, will I have to get a c section or will a natural birth even be possible? Is there a chance of me not being able to have a natural birth because of my disability? I have difficulty walking and use a wheelchair a lot. I just need some advice from someone who might know.

Jessi, the best thing you can do to encourage your baby to drop is to walk, but since you can’t do that, are there other ways that you can move your hips? The motion of your hips allows the baby to negotiate the bones in your pelvis. Please don’t even think about a c-section this early! You’re not even in labor yet. Some women with disabilities are able to birth vaginally so don’t rule it out until you’re in labor. ~blessings, Guinever

36. Julie - February 20, 2010

My husband and I had sex shortly before one of our appointments (I was at 33wks) and I was leaking something bloody/pink (more than average), so we thought my water might have broken. We went into my appointment and they said I had a lot of protien in my urine, and I told the nurse what happened. The doctor came in and checked me and told me 1) I had a small cervical polyp. and 2) I was 3cm and needed to go to the hospital. She did a speculum test (I’m guessing to see if my water broke) but I don’t know the results of that. I went to the hospital to find I was having contractions, so they gave me a shot to stop them. I was also given two steroid shots for the babies lungs. I am on strict bedrest. My questions are: Is is possible that the “leaking” was a mixture of semen and blood from the polyp? Does the cervix get tighter, or will it be at least 3cm until I have the baby? I didn’t feel pain or anything out of the ordinary after we had sex, other than that leaking pink/red, so this makes me wonder if I usually dilated during sex and never knew it, as well as had minor contractions. If the polyp would have never bled, there might be a possibility that I would have never known I was dilated… Or am I wrong? Is my cervix permanently dilated until I progress all the way through labor? Thank you!

Julie, it is possible that your cervix will close back up especially if you’re on bedrest and there is decreased pressure on the cervix. Just as likely, you could remain dilated at 3 until labor starts again. To answer your question about your water being broken, I suspect they would have told you if were broken, so possibly like you said, the liquid you were liquid was just normal discharge, semen and liquid from the polyp. ~blessings, Guinever

37. Leane - February 23, 2010

I am 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I have been having bouts of false labor almost everyday starting around 4:00 pm and lasting about 1/2 hour after I go to bed (going to bed usually makes it go away so I use this to determine if it’s the real thing). Although last night things got pretty uncomfortable and I thought it was the real thing. The false labor has been happening for over a week now. I lost my mucous plug/bloody show last Thursday morning and have continued to wipe away mucus since then. I am 3cm dilated and 90% effaced as of last Wednesday. The doctors tells me that the baby is engaged and pretty low down at this point. I have had plenty of cramping, backpain, everything that would make you think that labor is imminent but it doesn’t seem to be able to really start up. This is my 2nd baby. My first labor was about 45 hours and the baby was posterior. I had no cervical changes until the day things started. I had a vaginal birth much to the dismay of my doctor who pressured me the entire time to have a c-section. I’m just wondering, am I headed down the same path with this one? I can’t understand why labor has not kicked in yet and I’m starting to wonder if my body is just simply inadequate in producing effective contractions. I don’t know what to think but I certainly do not want to repeat my last experience – it was really horrible. Any thoughts on what is going on?

Leane, it sounds like your baby could be posterior again. Swaying the hips, belly dancing, doing round circles with the hips–these motions can encourage the baby to turn to a more favorable position for birth. I just want to encourage you that usually a 2nd labor is a bit easier and quicker than the first, just because your body has already done it before. Please don’t think that your body is inadequate for birth. You’re just 39 weeks. Time is on your side–you have a couple more weeks and I think you’ll go very soon. Check out the spinning babies website for more tips. ~blessings, Guinever

38. Leigh - February 27, 2010

Leigh – February 27, 2010

My first child was 8lbs 9 ounces and 1week late. My water started leaking after sex and she was born 36 hours later. I was on pitocin for 24 hours with her. Since I was about 5 months my dotor has been telling me I should induce in case this baby is bigger. My first due date was 2/26, after fist sono that was changed to 3/7. And the sonos following showed baby’s growth was a week earlier. I will be 40 weeks tomorrow and am 1.5 cm as off yesterday. My next appt is Thursday and that will be the last time I see my doc because she is going out of town. I don’t want to be induced but am starting to worry about what the doctor wa ssying about a bigger second baby. I am also very nervous that my doc is going out of town two days before my due date. I don’t want a new doctor to make hasty decisions in regards to an induction but also don’t want to harm my baby by refusing induction if she really is too big. I wish I would go into labor naturally this weekend because my doc will be on call all weekend and Monday. Is it better to refuse induction and than have a cesarean if the next sono shows a huge baby or to induce on Monday? I am worried about everything!

Dear Leigh, first of all, relax. Hang in there! Your pregnancy is almost over and before you know it, you will have your baby in your arms. Please don’t worry about your baby being too big. Ultrasound is notorious for being up to a couple of pounds off on the weight, not to mention, it is unlikely that you will grow a baby that you can’t birth vaginally.

If you’re asking me for my opinion, then I do not think it’s better to have a cesarean rather than have an induction. Ideally, your labor will start on its own. With a 3/7 due date, you still have a couple weeks before you need to consider induction as long as you and baby are healthy. ~blessings, Guinever

39. judyy - March 8, 2010

im 40 weeks pregnant and ive been having some contractions small ones but strong im 2 cm dilated and 70% effaced. if i have sex do you think labor will start sooner? and is raspberry tea safe for the pregnancy? im overwhelmed i need to have this baby!!

Raspberry leaf (note the leaf part) is great for pregnancy and for toning and strengthening the uterus. There are no guarantees, butr having sex can help to start labor. Soon you will have your baby. ~blessings, Guinever