Having a baby is an incredible experience. It seems that one minute women are seeing that blue line on the stick, and the next minute, everything starts to change before their very eyes. First women undergo hormonal changes causing their bodies to reject foods and drinks that were once loved. Next, the growth aspect where a woman’s body starts to get bigger to accommodate the temporary visitor she is housing kicks in. As she approaches D-day, her body prepares with many changes for this miracle. Baby drops lower in the woman’s uterus, she begins to want to nest which prepares her environment for baby, and she becomes super energized. It’s like her body is revving up for the welcoming of a new human being to the world.
Cervical dilation is part of this process. As the woman’s cervix dilates from 1 to 10 cm, her body is preparing to bring life in the world. It is a gradual progression for most women, though not all of them experience it in the same way. Some progress smoothly. Others have complications to wade through, and some are in the middle of it all. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of different ways that the woman’s body experiences cervical dilation. So what does happen?
As each woman is unique, so is each woman’s pregnancy and her experience of birthing her child. Every woman’s body is different and handles labor and delivery in a unique way. She may be wondering if her labor experience was weird or not. In most cases, it is not of course. It is simply her birth experience and will be her motherhood experience. On that note, here are 15 crazy facts about cervical dilation.
15 Second Time Around Is Faster
It's true. Women who have given birth have a cervix that will dilate more quickly in the future when it is the next baby's turn to come into the picture. It is as if their cervix carries a memory of what occurred and can replay it back at any given time so it knows what to do. This is another one of Mother Nature's amazing ways of preparing the woman' body for one of the most incredible things to happen: bringing life into the world. It was also probably designed to make childbirth easier the second (or more) time around. After all, there has to be something to get her through until she sees that cute cherubic little face emerge out of her nether regions. It is not smooth sailing for so many women, so whatever part can be easier she counts herself lucky if that part does become easier.
14 It Thins As It Dilates
There are many ways a woman knows she is about to pop baby out, and no, it is not only when she is saying, "now, please. I am SOO tired", though of course, she reaches that point as all of us veteran Moms know. But one way a woman knows she is due to deliver soon, is when her cervix thins and begins to dilate near the end of her due date. It can stay that way for a few weeks too. Her doctor or medical care practitioner will notice this during checkups and will let her know how she is doing and how far along the woman is until she meets her future child. Again, the body is giving Mom-to-be many signals that life is about to change forever.
13 Some Women Can Feel It
If this does not sound like something incredible, I don't know what does. Imagine, not only feeling life moving and growing inside of you even with some of the uncomfortable parts of this, but also knowing when the body has moved into phase two before labor starts: dilation. Yes, some women can actually feel their cervix dilating. It is not a fun feeling for sure. Really, it is like a sharp muscular pain deep in their pelvic region. Yikes, she can't mistake that for indigestion now, can she? Still, to be able to read her body like that is truly something amazing, and just one of the things she can look back on that truly showed her how powerful she and her body are, besides the fact that she has a beautiful baby (or more) as a reminder of that.
12 First Five Centimeters Take Longest
Another fact that sends some women into a panic particularly if they are not avid pain fans, is that yes, the first five centimeters of the cervix take longer to dilate than the last five. And yes, ahem, that means that most of the pain is concentrated at the beginning of their birth experience. Though a little depressing at the onset, this is actually a good thing. Think about it. At the beginning she is still fresh, energetic and can get through labor more easily than after having been in labor awhile. No matter how long it takes her to get there, the beginning is always the part where she is fresher and less tired. It is Mother Nature's Way of helping her get through something difficult as quickly as possible.
11 Some Women Check It Out Themselves
Yep. It's true. Some women want to do their own vaginal examinations to check how far their cervix has progressed toward the end of their pregnancy journey. How do they do this, one may ask? She can use a speculum, flashlight and mirror and by sitting in a comfortable position with her knees raised up and legs spread open, see and monitor the changes that happen over time in her cervix. She will be able to view how her cervix changes during pregnancy, and can see that often it will be purplish or blue colored due to a blood circulations increase. The cervix may also appear puffier, softer an the os may look more open. This is not a replacement for her doctor's examination, but can help her be more alert to her body, and any strange changes can indicate an infection which she can have checked out right away.
10 She Can Artificially Dilate Her Cervix
This sounds a little wacky, but it's true. A woman can artificially dilate her cervix if she chooses to. If she chooses to do this, it can be done with prostaglandin gel or with a ripening balloon catheter. There is also another natural way to dilate her cervix: have sex. That's right ladies. Apparently semen contains something called prostaglandins. This can help to start labor naturally. The body relaxes, particularly the lower region, and then away the body may go into labor jump starting the whole baby evacuation from his/her baby cave of the last nine months. Remember though ladies, baby will really only come out when he/she is truly ready so be patient. If after a woman does the following and baby is still not racing for the exit, it is just not time to come out yet is all.
9 Can't Push Before The Cervix Is Ready
Sometimes she wants to just push that kid out. Heck, it can be a very LONG nine months for so many women and their partners. But a woman should never push until she is fully dilated. The reason behind this logic is due to the fact that pushing before her cervix completely opens can cause swelling on the cervix. This can also impact the ease or difficulty of a vaginal delivery. Exceptions do exist however. Sometimes women who've given birth before can push sooner than others. They may not develop any issues. Also if a woman is carrying a smaller preterm baby it can all work out smoothly. Other than those situations, however, she should exercise some caution. No woman wants further complications in her childbirth experience. All want a healthy baby and a healthy recovery.
8 There's No Set Time Limit
Yes, like all women are different in other ways, with labor it is the same. Some women progress very rapidly with cervical dilation while others progress more smoothly. No one can directly control the rate of cervical dilation but some things can help open up the cervix if the woman is experiencing problems. A few things that have been suggested by midwives in the past include things like acupuncture, evening primrose oil, raspberry tea which can help tone the uterus when contractions begin, visualization and meditation and any kind of chiropractic care. Also deep squats, swimming and intercourse can help, as can acupressure and reflexology. All of these methods, in one way or another, work to relax the body and mind and help move the body to a calmer place.
7 There Are Natural Ways To Speed It Up
There are many natural ways to dilate the cervix for the Mom who wants to meet her newborn yesterday. Yoga, exercise and sex are great ways to help in dilating the cervix. Especially in the case of having sex, the semen contains an ingredient called prostaglandins. This can and has helped start labor in the past. Of course, nothing is foolproof and every woman's body is different and responds to stimuli in a different way too. The best thing is for the woman to relax, take it easy. If she lets nature take its course, it will most likely get things going for her in due time without her having to do much. As previously mentioned, things like meditation and yoga can also help in relaxing visualization and can help bring about positive outcomes.
6 If It's Closed...
This is a normal thing for a first time Mom to experience. It basically means a doctor or nurse cannot pass a finger through a woman's cervical os or opening. Most Moms going about childbirth for the first time will have this throughout most of their pregnancy. It is only when their body is ready for birthing, that a change will occur. Sometimes, however, if the os is not opening, a c-section may be suggested in order to get baby out safely and soon. This will also depend on how long a woman has been in labor and any other signs that could put her and/or baby at risk. Her medical care practitioner will let her know about all her options and help her make the best decision possible for her and her child.
5 Even Fully Dilated, Labor Can Take Hours
Unlike with other health measurements and statistics, there is not a single measure that will tell her medical care practitioner that she is indeed in labor. While one women can be walking around the room while she is four centimeters dilated, another woman may have to be lying down and be considered in active labor. Doctors take everything into account. They will do a cervical exam and evaluate how often contractions are happening. This will help them determine how far the woman has progressed. They will also repeat and do other cervical exams to see if there are any changes. Then, they can decide how to proceed from there. Keeping in mind that all women are made differently, will help medical care practitioners respond in an individualized manner to each patient they have.
4 It Depends On Many Factors
Every woman is made differently and will respond differently, but how fast she dilates also depends on a few other things. Generally, women who've had a baby before will dilate a lot faster than women who are doing it for the first time. Another thing that can slow things down are epidurals. Epidurals slow down the rate of some of the cervical dilation. They will not, however, increase her risk of a c-section like some people believe. In general, a cervix is said to dilate about 1 to 1.5 centimeters an hour when a woman is in active labor. This is just a general statistic though, and can change from woman to woman. Like in all labors, doctors and medical staff take it on an individual basis and treat all women and their babies in this manner.
3 No Two Cervixes Are The Same
What this basically means is that doctors look at each woman and her body changes to determine if she is in active labor. In the past, medical staff used to say that if a woman was 4 centimeters dilated she was in active labor and would deliver her baby soon. Today medical personnel know this is not always the case. Some women are not even in active labor until they are up to 6 centimeters dilated. This is important to remember because in the past, a woman would be told she would need a c-section if she was at 4 centimeters. She would be told her labor was stuck and a c-section would help get baby safely out. Now, doctors are realizing that sometimes all a woman needs is extra time to dilate which can avoid them performing unnecessary C-sections.
2 The Cervix Looks Different For Baby #2
A previously pregnant woman's cervix looks very different from a woman's cervix when she has not been pregnant. The main distinguishing characteristic is the os, which is the entrance to the cervix. It will usually stay permanently open a little more due to the stretching that happens during childbirth. A woman who has never been pregnant has a closed cervix. Also, in some cases a woman's cervix never goes back to being closed as it was previously. It can be a normal thing if she is a few centimeters dilated. This would not be a sign of preterm or real labor. Her doctor or medical care practitioner would be able to put her fears to rest if she was worried about this. Chances are if she falls in this category, this is perfectly normal for her.
1 It Doesn't Close Right Away After Birth
There are also cases where even after a woman gives birth, her cervix does not go back to being closed. It actually may remain open a little bit. It can be a normal thing for the woman though, and nothing to worry about. She just needs to just be aware of this and make sure their doctor regularly examines her to make sure all is well. This just probably means that her cervix will remain dilated a few centimeters throughout future pregnancies without it being a cause of alarm or worry for preterm or real labor. This is the way her body is, and it is normal for her body to be experiencing pregnancy in this way. Every woman and every pregnancy and situation can be different, and even the same woman's body can respond a little differently with each pregnancy as many women have seen.
Sources: Kidspot.com.au, Bundoo.com, FWHC.org