Cervical Effacement & Cervical Dilation- Signs of Approaching Labor

If you have completed the circle of pregnancy and closer to delivery, you can hear the term” “labor. Here is some information related to labor.

1. Explain dilation and the cause of it

According to physiology, the word dilation especially means to open or to relax or to widen. It is usually seen in some systems where substances are enabled to pass from a place to another one. Dilation is the autonomic process of the human body, and it works with the help of smooth muscles. Smooth muscles are involuntary muscles that form some of our internal organs and the digestive system. When the smooth muscle relaxes, it permits the dilation to perform in some organs, usually when a body material needs to be transferred. 

During the usual time of pregnancy, the smooth muscles shut off the cervix securing the safety of a baby in the uterus. But when the time for birth comes nearer, the cervix’s smooth muscle tends to relax, prompting the cervix to dilate or open wider. So dilation triggers the smooth muscles to prepare the passage of an unborn child from the uterus to the birth canal.

2. When you start dilating and the measurements

 In the early stages during labor, the cervix dilates and assume the following sizes:

  • 1 cm 
  • 2 cm
  • 3 cm

During later stages in pregnancy, the cervix can get dilated several centimeters before experiencing any indications of labor. Some women, especially those who are giving birth for the first time, face trouble recognizing if labor has started. The expansion of the cervix may last for limited hours or can prolong for many days. During real labor, 

  • a person’s contractions start from of the uterus,
  • get more severe and regular with time,
  • Do not stop.

Stages of active labor

Stage 1

When the active phase of labor starts, the cervix tends to dilate in the following sizes:

  • 4 cm, ( it is almost the size of a small cookie)
  • 5 cm( It is the size of an orange)
  • 6 cm( It is the size of a small avocado )
  • 7 cm( It is the size of a tomato)

Labor compressions become more severe at the time of active labor. It becomes more painful and difficult to endure. During such circumstances, some women may prefer medication to bear the intense pain. Changing postures, walking, and keeping your body hydrated can help you cope with the terrible discomfort of active labor.

Stage 2 or transition phase

Amidst the transition stage, the cervix widens to the following sizes:

  • 8 cm (like an apple)
  • 9 cm, ( like a doughnut)
  • 10 cm,( like a large bagel)

Transition is the shortest stage of labor. One can feel hopeless, being incapable of bearing the pain. Some women start vomiting. Moving, altering postures, and contemplation of some beautiful things can help.

The cervix experiences a continuous dilation process during the transition, and transition stops when the cervix gets wholly dilated.

Stage 3: full dilation 

Once the cervix has attained full contraction (10 cm), it is the moment to push the baby out. It also generates a powerful urge to push the baby downwards. This urge can be like a strict requirement for a bowel movement.

This stage can linger from a few minutes to some more hours. It takes a longer period for mothers who are giving birth for the first time. 

3. What is effacement, cause of it and the measurements? 

Effacement is the thinning or softening of the cervix during the time of labor. In pregnancy, the cervix generally remains in between 3.5 and 4 centimeters long in size. As you near your delivery, your body manufactures a hormone called prostaglandins and begins the process of contraction. These things boost the cervix to efface and prepare itself for the due date. The cervix can efface or thins to the extent that it can look like a piece of paper. 

Effacement is undoubtedly different from dilation as the last one denotes the widening of the cervix (It may be from 1 centimeter to 10 centimeters). Though effacement and dilation are two sides of the same coin, researches show that the more thinned or stretched out the cervix is during labor, the sooner the procedure of dilation may start.

You may or may not have indications of your cervix effacement. 

While some people feel no serious changes at all, others may feel mild irregular contractions. At the same time, loss of mucus plug and vaginal discharge may happen, and one can feel that baby has come to the downwards. So you should keep in mind that you may experience a lot of irritations at the edge of your delivery. It can be tough to identify whether your feeling originates either from effacement and dilation or from common aches and discomforts. Effacement is assessed in percentages, which can vary from 0 to 100 percent. If your cervix is extended only 2 centimeters, you’ve considered 0 percent effaced. Your cervix gets the size of the neck of a jar when you get 50 percent effacement. Your gynecologist will propose cervical inspections when you get nearer to your delivery date. Cervical effacement commences typically during the last phases of pregnancy. 

The best thing is to wait for a natural delivery and to give your cervix enough time to prepare the most fruitful and safe way suitable for you and your baby. There are specific medical reasons when you have to increase the process of dilation by medical intervention. It is necessary

  • If you’re nearly two weeks past your specific labor dates, and contraction has not started yet.
  • If your water has broken, but still, you aren’t feeling contractions.
  • If you have a significant infection in your uterus
  • If your baby is facing some problems regarding growth
  • If there is a scarcity of amniotic fluid in your uterus
  • If your placenta gets disconnected from the uterine wall before delivery
  • If you have some medical issues, like diabetes or high blood pressure, which can be hazardous for your delivery, it can severely damage you and the baby

If any of these crises happen to you and your cervix is incapable of starting dilating and effacing, your doctor may suggest a few options:

  • Your doctor may prescribe to apply the hormone prostaglandin to your cervix or follow a specific technique when a prostaglandin suppository is inserted into your vagina. This hormone is responsible for softening the cervix and prompting the contractions.
  • If your amniotic sac is unbroken, membrane stripping may quicken labor. Your doctor will use his finger to touch the membranes related to the amniotic sac and stimulate the uterus to release some prostaglandin to facilitate the contraction.  
  • If the prostaglandin gel or suppository is unable to work correctly, your doctor may consider applying oxytocin. Oxytocin hormone which successfully starts contraction within thirty minutes.

4. What you can do

Effacement and dilation don’t confirm to call your gynecologist immediately. But you have to call him if you.

  • observe bleeding,  
  • experience muscular contractions that appears every 5 minutes and stays 45 to 60 seconds, 
  • Or feel that your water breaks.

Otherwise, your cervix will ultimately and automatically open wide enough and become thinner to allow your baby to come out from your vagina. The procedure is quite incredible if you try t feel about it. Your body will ultimately return to its previous state soon after the pregnancy. So it is prudent to calm your body and mind. The most important thing you have to do is to remove the worry and anxiety and take a relaxed breath.

Farha Naaz

Farha Naaz is a mother of a 10-month old baby.