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Cervical Effacement- What is Cervical Effacement, Cervical Dilation, Symptoms, and Everything Else You Need to Know!

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Cervical Effacement What is Cervical Effacement, Cervical Dilation, Symptoms, and Everything

Table of Contents

When the doctor says that your cervix has effaced, in layman’s terms, it means that the labor is near. For a big baby to take natural birth from your vagina, the cervix makes some adjustments to its size and structure, called cervical dilation and effacement.

Cervical dilation, as against cervical effacement, is very simple. Cervical dilation is when the opening of the cervix widens to have the baby’s head and body pass through it with ease.

What is Cervical Effacement?

The cervix, in simple terms, is the gateway from the uterus to the vagina. The cervix needs to thin down (efface), soften and dilate to aid a baby’s free movement into the birth canal. While this whole process is called Cervical Ripening, Cervical Effacement is the term used for the process of the thinning and stretching of the cervix to prepare for childbirth.

Cervical Effacement v/s Cervical Dilation

Cervical Effacement Cervical Dilation
Cervical Effacement is when your cervix becomes shorter and thinner. The cervix starts at about 3-4 cm, however, when the baby’s head pushes down through the cervix, it becomes shorter and much thinner. For a better perspective, when your efface is 100% thinned out, it will be as thin as a sheet of paper.Midwives usually track the thinning of the cervix.Dilation, on the other hand, is simply the opening of the cervix to allow a baby’s head to pass through with ease. Cervix, which at the beginning of the pregnancy would be closed and at 0 cm, dilates to grow as wide as about 3 centimeters by the time a woman goes into labor.During labor, once the cervix dilates to 10 cm, the pushing out of the baby begins!

What are the symptoms of Cervical Effacement?

The most obvious question that has potentially popped in your mind right now is “Would I feel cervical dilation or effacement?” The answer to this, just like most pregnancy questions, cannot be definitive. While some women might feel it, some may not feel it at all. However, there are a few common symptoms faced by most women, associated with the whole process of cervical ripening.

The symptoms of Cervical Ripening include-

  • Contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions commonly referred to as “false labor,” are usually felt by women as a symptom of cervical ripening. While Braxton Hicks are appeared at around the third trimester, it is followed by labor contractions, both of which are supposed to aid dilation and effacement.

  • Pelvic discomfort

Pelvic discomfort, in the form of weird and never-felt-before twinges or sensations in the vagina, is commonly felt as a result of the change the cervix is undergoing. Especially when the baby’s head ultimately enters the pelvis, you may feel like something is thrusting down on the cervix. This thrust is what helps cause effacement and might feel a little uncomfortable.

  • Mucus plug

A Mucus Plug is defined as this jelly-like, thick barrier that exists between the cervix and the uterus. A mucus plug looks exactly like it sounds by the name of it- like a blob of mucus. ‘Losing’ of the mucus plug is a very common phenomenon that takes place around the 37th-38th week of pregnancy. Women lose the mucus plug as a result of the rise in estrogen and the pressure that the baby’s head puts on the cervix – the sign that your cervix is changing.

  • Bloody show

The changes in the cervical might cause the capillaries around the cervix to rupture which results in stained or spotted panties, called the ‘; bloody show.’ It should be noted that bloody shows might also, in some cases, take place with the loss of the mucus plug.

Can I check Cervix Dilation and Effacement on my own?

Ideally, the effacement or the dilation of the cervix is tested by a doctor. They wear sterile gloves and enter their fingers into the vagina in order to feel and gauge the dilation and effacement. While you can find ways to DIY on the internet, doing it on your own is advised against since it could get a little tricky and perhaps, even uncomfortable on your big belly.

What’s more important here is to note that keeping a close check on the effacement and dilation is not even necessary. Your body knows what’s best for you and it will find a way around. Just keep an eye open for any unusual pains, bleeding, and the signs of labor – regular contractions and water breaking. These are the cases when you should be alarmed and call your doctor.

Final Take Away

As a final word, another point to note here is that cervix effacement starts before cervix dilation and for women who are birthing for the first time, it might take a couple of weeks but you do not have to worry about that either. You might also believe that walking, squatting, penetration, or acupuncture could be some ways to naturally induce labor, however, always speak to your doctor before getting yourself into any of these situations. When it is about your baby, safety and professional consultation should be the way to go!

What is Cervical Effacement FAQs

1. Do you dilate faster with a second baby ?

While this might vary from woman to woman, second deliveries are usually supposed to have shorter labor and delivery time. Dilation happens after almost everything else is done - the cervix loses its rigidity and all that is left is to make way for dilation and effacement (thinning of cervix) for the baby to pop out!

2. What does it mean to be 60% effaced ?

If you're 60 percent effaced, your cervix has thinned 60 percent. When the cervix has effaced 100%, it is essentially as thin as a sheet of paper.

3. Why does a cervix efface ?

During the final days of pregnancy, right before you go into labor, the baby’s head pushes itself down into the pelvis. This pushing down of the head causes the cervix to efface (thin down). This happens only at the last stages because prior to that, the cervix is closed and protected via a mucus plug - a barrier between the cervix and the uterus.

Reviewed By :

Esha Chainani - Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

Esha Chainani - Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

Dr. Esha Chainani is an Obstetrician, Gynaecologist, and laparoscopic surgeon who aims to break the stigma around women’s health by advocating an inclusive and open practice of obstetrics and gynecology and an author of several internationally published research papers and health articles in the media like the Swaddle.
She also founded Premaa, a non-profit to reduce maternal morbidity and eventual maternal mortality by providing lower-income pregnant women living in urban areas with cell phone access through an app that can feature an entire section about contraception as well for a whole gamut of reproductive health.
A panel for multiple health sessions including with the UN, USAID, BMC, gender at work, and multiple non-profit organisations, and is on the advisory panel of the South Indian medical students association.

On behalf of the editorial team at Parenthoodbliss, we follow strict reporting guidelines and only use credible sources, along with peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and highly respected health organizations. To learn about how we maintain content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.

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