Cervical Dilation Chart
| December 1, 2011
Changes in your physical condition and behavioral disposition are natural and inevitable during the course of pregnancy. As your body prepares for childbirth, your cervix opens up, so that your baby can pass through the birthing canal. Cervical dilation or effacement, which can be described as the loosening of the mucus plug, allows the baby to enter the vagina. You may either see this mucus plug come out in one piece, or it could appear in the form of a thick vaginal discharge. Cervical dilation is usually accompanied by intense pain, which should let you know that you are in labor. Before you can deliver the baby, your doctor will carry out a cervical dilation measurement to see how much your cervix has opened up. According to the cervical dilation chart followed by most health care providers around the world, a women’s cervix should have dilated to 10 centimeters for a normal delivery. Your health care provider will also maintain a cervical dilation and effacement chart to keep a track of how much your cervix has thinned out, while preparing for labor.
A cervical dilation chart refers to a grading system or a tool that is used by most doctors to determine how much effacement has occurred, based on the amount your cervix has dilated. The effacement of the cervix can vary from 0% (there is no thinning) to 100% (cervix has completely thinned out and your body is now ready for childbirth).
Most women assume that the thinning of the cervix is one of the first signs of labor. However, it is possible for a woman to have a slightly dilated and thinned cervix for weeks, before she actually goes into labor. Your cervix can dilate up to 3 centimeters during the later stages of pregnancy, even when you are not in labor. Once the uterine contractions begin, your cervix will further open to 6 centimeters or so. As the baby applies more pressure on your cervix, it further dilates to 10 centimeters. According to a cervical dilation chart, the actual size that is regarded as complete dilation is 10 centimeters. When this happens, you are likely to experience the most severe cervical pain.
In a few instances, women experience cervical dilation in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. This could be an indication of a serious health condition known as cervical incompetence, which needs to be addressed by a health care provider, without any delay.
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