Have you wondered what does a dilated cervix look like? If you are eager to become a mother, you most likely have.
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What Does a Dilated Cervix Look Like?
The dilation of the cervix at birth is very important for the vaginal birth. It`s characterized by the opening of the cervix and usually occurs naturally close to the moment of birth. When this doesn`t occur, the doctors may induce dilation.
In the last part of pregnancy, the cervix starts to open progressively. It already has an opening of 1 – 3 cm even since the last trimester, before labor is triggered. The repeated uterine contractions that occur during labor help in the cervix`s opening up to a diameter of 6 cm. From that point, the pressure that is exerted by the presence of the baby at the moment of birth (the baby turning his head down and him being ready for birth) and the uterine contractions will open the cervix up to 10 cm, when it`s considered a complete stage of dilation.
Along with labor, the cervix starts to thin and soften, and then it soon starts to dilate. At the same time, contractions also start to occur, which help in opening the cervix and pushing the baby through the birth canal. From the moment when labor is triggered, the doctor will monitor the rhythm of dilation to know what measures he needs to take. If the dilation doesn`t occur naturally, the doctor will then choose to induce labor.
Stages of Cervical Dilation
Birth depends on cervical dilation, so it`s best if you`ll know a little about it; at least enough to understand what the doctor explains to you.
There are several stages of cervical dilation:
0 – 3 cm – the cervix starts to thin and you might start to lose your cervical mucus. Usually, this is an indicator that the moment of labor is approaching. But you won`t be able to know for sure when exactly. It might take between several hours and a couple of days, sometimes even more.
What to Expect?
- It`s the most variable phase from woman to woman or from labor to labor. As already mentioned, it may last for a few days or just a few hours. Frequently, it lasts around 10 – 12 hours in case of a woman who already given birth, while at first birth it may last up to 20 hours.
- In the case of a lot of women, this phase may be confused with Braxton-Hicks contractions. The contractions are frequently of low intensity, somehow irregular, but stronger and stronger and at shorter intervals of time.
- You`ll feel the contractions as a small back pain, similar to the pain during menstruation or a pressure around the pelvic area.
- The contractions may last around 30 – 40 seconds, having 5 to 30 minutes of pause between them.
- The cervix will be wiped and dilated up to 3 cm.
- Water may break; also known as rupture of amniotic membranes, this may occur anytime during the first stage of labor.
What to Do?
- Take a shower.
- Listen to your favorite music.
- Ask your partner to make you an easy massage.
- Try some breathing exercises.
- Change your position.
- Drink a lot of liquids.
- Eat small snacks.
- Apply hear or ice at your back.
What to Expect?
- It`s the phase with the fastest cervical dilation.
- The cervix will dilate from 3 – 4 cm to 8 – 9 cm.
- It`s the most predictable phase, with a duration of around 5 hours on receipt and 2 – 3 hours for mothers who already given birth.
- You`ll feel the stronger contractions and they`ll will last longer.
- The contractions will last around 40 – 60 seconds with a 3 to 5 minutes break in between.
- Reddish mucous secretions might appear. This isn`t a cause for alarm. This is the mucus plug which has protected the baby from foreign bodies for 9 months. Also, during this phase it`s most likely that the membranes break, if they haven`t already. The baby`s head will lower even more and will put pressure on the amniotic fluid as well as the membranes.
What to Do?
Now it`s time to go to the hospital. The contractions will be stronger, will last longer and will occur more often. During this stage, it`s very important for you to be helped. Also, it`s best to practice breathing techniques and try a few relaxation techniques between contractions. It`s recommended to change your position during this stage. You can stand up, you can take a quick walk if you feel like it, you can take a shower or relax in a bathtub with warm water. Continue to drink water and urinate regularly. – Click this link!
The Transition Phase
- The cervical dilation continues, but at a slower pace.
- The cervix will dilate from 8 – 9 cm to 10 cm. During this phase, the dilation will become complete and the baby will be ready for birth. The child will engage more and more deeply into the birth canal.
- It takes between 30 minutes and 2 hours. For some women, this phase isn`t really obvious, being included in the active phase.
- The contractions are long, intense, strong, sometimes overlapping one another.
- The contractions will take around 60 – 90 seconds, with only 30 seconds up to 2 minutes of pause between them.
- It`s the most intense period, but fortunately the shortest.
- You might experience chills, hot flashes, nausea, vomiting or gas removal. All these signs might scare you a bit, but they are completely normal and mean nothing more than the fact that the first stage of labor is almost over.
What to Do?
During this phase, you depend quite a lot on the support of the person who helps you. It`s the most intense phase, but also the shortest. Think “a contraction at a time.” This won`t be easy, because the contractions may occur frequently, but think about how far you went and how close you are to the end. When you`ll feel the need of pushing, tell the doctor or midwife.
The dilation itself isn`t painful, and it`s rather similar to pain during menstruation. The most painful are contractions. They are the ones producing the dilation of the cervix.
Sometimes, if labor lasts for too much time and dilation is produced, there are techniques of inducing labor.
Dilation at First Birth
Cervical dilation can be a long and difficult process if you are at your first pregnancy, which might take hours or even days until the cervix becomes soft enough. The slow rhythm of the latent stage of labor is accelerated by intense uterine contraction.
The pain becomes stronger once the cervix is fully dilated and becomes a constituent part of the uterus, so that the birth canal is formed.
The Symptoms of Dilation during Labor
The opening of the cervix is blocked during pregnancy by a gelatinous plug. It has the role of protecting against the penetration of bacteria into the uterus. At the time of labor, this plug drops. This will coincide with water breaking. – More details!
Pregnant women say that they experience water breaking when they enter into labor and they prepare to give birth. When this happens, it`s a sign that cervical dilation has started. Not all women notice the loss of the gelatinous plug. For some this is more pronounced, for others it isn`t.
Vaginal Bleeding – Another Sign that May Occur
These signs occur when water breaks. The mucus becomes pinkish, red or even brownish due to the stripes of blood. If the bleeding is somehow red and clear, there`s a risk for the dilation not to occur, and this to happen due to some complications. Among them, we remind the placental detachment or placenta previa.
At the time when the cervix opens, you may feel some pelvic pains. These are similar to the ones occurred at menstruation during your menstrual cycle. Sometimes, they may be more intense due to the contractions that occur during labor.
The Induction of Labor
If dilation doesn`t occur naturally, doctor choose to induce it. Usually, they`ll administrate prostaglandins to thin and open the cervix. Sometimes, these are inserted directly into the cervix. Prostaglandins are naturally contained by sperm. That`s why, a lot of doctors recommend sexual contact as a method of inducing labor, and implicitly of cervical dilation.
Still, there is no scientific evidence to prove that this method is efficient. Other natural method of inducing cervical dilation is nerve stimulation. By this action, the organism will produce oxytocin. This is an organic hormone which helps that causes uterine contractions. Stimulation can be done manually or with a breast pump.