cervix dilation

cervix dilation during pregnancy 101

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You’re pregnant and the birth of your baby is nearing. There’s a lot of talk about cervix dilation during pregnancy and labor and you’re just wondering what on earth is going to happen all up in there and how am I going to open up enough to birth this baby!  How does it all work? So below are the most common questions women have about the cervix and labor.

What is the cervix?

The cervix is the bottom part or neck of the uterus. The cervix opens during labor so the baby may pass through the womb into the birth canal and be born.

What is cervix dilation during pregnancy?

Dilation is the opening up of the cervix and is measured in centimeters. A fingertip dilated means about 1 centimeter dilated. Full dilation is 10 centimeters. Once full dilation occurs, the cervix is completely gone and over the baby’s head, and the mother may push the baby out to be born.

What is effacement?

Effacement is the thinning and softening of the cervix which is measured in percentages. Usually, the cervix is long, hard, and closed, and at this point the effacement would be at 0%. Towards the end of pregnancy, Braxton Hicks contractions occur (sometimes you aren’t aware that you’re having contractions) which start this effacement process.

Once the cervix starts to efface, then it can start to dilate too. As effacement continues, the cervix softens, becomes mushy, and then slippery. When fully effaced at 100%, the cervix has virtually disappeared against the baby’s head.

What causes the cervix to change?

The uterus is a muscle that contracts or tightens. During a contraction, the baby’s head (or another presenting part such as the baby’s butt or foot), pushes down on your cervix, causing it to dilate and efface.

What does cervical dilation feel like?

If you ever have really bad menstrual cramps, it feels like that in early labor. If your period cramps ever feel like a downward tugging deep inside, that’s how dilation can feel.  Actually, you can’t really feel the cervix opening per-say, you mainly feel your contractions in the front of your belly where your uterus is or in your back if you’re having back labor. For a much more in-depth description of how contractions feel, you can click here.

Why does backward dilation sometimes happen and is it normal?

First of all, yes it’s normal and is not something to be worried about. Backward dilation can occur if the baby’s head isn’t pressing as hard on your cervix as it once was. If your labor slows down and you’re not having any contractions, the cervix can close up a little.

Don’t worry, once contractions pick up, you’ll soon be dilating again. A change in dilation can occur when someone new is checking your cervix. For example, one nurse’s five cm dilated, 85% effaced may be another nurse’s six cm dilated, 80% effaced.

How long does it take to dilate from 1 to 10?

This is a really hard question to answer because it’s different for every woman and every labor. Some women have super quick labors that are just a couple of hours or less and some women take weeks of pre-labor to even get going.  You will find additional clarification of how long it takes to be fully dilated by reading when your labor may start by reading How long does it take the cervix to dilate 5 centimeters?

For more about cervix dilation during pregnancy, you also might like to read  What does being 2 centimeters dilated mean?

For more articles about pregnancy and birth, please refer to my welcome page.

cervix dilation