Dilation - The Beginning of the Delivery Process

Submitted by Pregnancy and Baby Care team on August 9, 2012

Dilation During Pregnancy

In the weeks preceding labor, your body undergoes many changes due to the transition from pregnancy to the delivery of the baby. Your body starts taking natural steps towards bringing a new life into the world. In a healthy pregnancy, the cervix remains closed until the delivery. A week or two before the due date, the cervix starts opening. Dilation is one of the pregnancy signs that the body is ...


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gearing up for the birthing process. Dilation refers to the opening of the cervix in pregnant women as labor and delivery gets closer. It may occur naturally or may have to be induced through medical means.

During pregnancy the uterus is closed with a thick mucus lining to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus. This keeps the baby safe and secure in the womb. During dilation, this is loosened and it comes out of the vagina as a thick mucus discharge. This is natural and is an indication that cervix is beginning to dilate. However, not all the women notice this mucus discharge. Cervical dilation may also be mechanically induced.

As the day of delivery nears you may experience contractions as your body prepares for the birth. With each contraction the cervix stretches a little bit, encouraging it to dilate. In order to deliver the baby, the cervix should dilate enough to allow the baby to pass through the birth canal. Dilation is measured in centimeters and many women experience a small degree of dilation one or two weeks before the delivery. In order to deliver your baby, the cervix needs to be stretched wide open to at least 10 cm. You generally start dilating in your third trimester and if you start dilating in your second trimester, it is a sign of premature labor. In this case you need proper medical support and rest. The pain during dilation is very similar to that of menstruation.

In the final month of pregnancy your gynecologist may call you every week to check the progress of cervical dilation. You enter the active phase of labor when your cervix dilates by 4 cm. During this phase, the contractions become more intense as your uterus works towards dilating your cervix. This active phase of labor may last for a couple of hours or longer, and during this phase your cervix will continue to dilate. At 8 cm of dilation your contractions become more intense and you enter the transition phase from pregnancy to delivery. When your cervix reaches 10 cm you will be taken to the delivery room. You may feel intense pressure on your uterus. The birth of your child is very close at hand now and it will not be long before you get to hold your child in your arms.

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