What is dilation in pregnancy?

(May 27, 2010)

Dilation During Pregnancy

Dilation is the slow and gradual opening of the cervix during labor. This opening of the cervix is measured in centimeters and the effacement which is the thinning of the cervix is measured in percentages. The timing differs for every woman. During this process of dilation and effacement the cervix is getting ready for delivery as it is opening a path from the uterus to the birth canal so that the baby can be delivered. If a woman has a Cesarean operation scheduled, she may not have started to dilate. Cervical dilation can occur naturally or be induced medically. The latter can be done by placing devices into the cervix that will expand while in place. These include a balloon catheter, synthetic hygroscopic products or laminaria -dried seaweed. The pain experienced during dilation is similar to period pains, though more intense. Labor pains are in fact caused by the uterus contracting so that the cervix can dilate.

Pre natal check ups will become more frequent closer to the delivery date. The doctor will start checking the cervix to see if dilation has started. The cervix remains thick, firm and closed during pregnancy. It will start thinning out several days or even weeks before the actual delivery. The mucus plug which fills the cervix throughout pregnancy begins to open slightly. Some women experience a mucus discharge along with some blood at this time. This is a natural sign that the cervix is beginning to dilate. This loss of the mucus plug is called a “show”. This can be regarded as early labor. The cervix will be dilated between 1-3 centimeters during this latent phase of early labor.  Labor progresses differently for each woman but it is likely that the doctor will admit you to hospital if you are 3 centimeters dilated.

The active phase of labor starts when you are 4 centimeters dilated. Contractions become more intense as the uterus is stretching to open the cervix even more. This phase of labor may last for a couple of hours or more. Your water might break or your doctor might burst your water bag herself. Once you reach 8 centimeters of dilation, you begin the transition phase of labor and contractions become even more intense as you will soon deliver your baby.

You will be fully dilated once your cervix has dilated to 10 centimeters. You should be 100 per cent effaced as well at this time. You may feel intense pressure and your doctor will guide you on how to push your baby out and into this world.

Submitted by P T on May 27, 2010 at 01:14

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