What is cervical dilatation?

Cervical dilatation is the opening of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus which dips into the vagina. It is also the entrance to the uterus, as well as the exit from the uterus of the baby and placenta. During labor the cervix gradually opens from closed or 1 centimeters (cm) to maximum full cervical opening which is 10 centimeters (cm). 

What is cervical effacement?

Cervical effacement which is also known as cervical ripening or cervical shortening refers to the thinning of the cervix. The cervix can thin either by itself checkcoverage.apple.com

cervical effacement can be expressed as a percentage from 0% (not effaced) to 100% (fully effaced or "paperthin").

Causes of Cervical Dilation and Effacement

Nearly every pregnant woman who goes through full labor will go through the process of cervical dilation and effacement. This natural process is measured in percentages and centimeters. The cervix must open and thin out before birth can occur. The larger the cervix opens the more centimeters the woman will measure. The thinner the cervix becomes the higher percentage of effacement. On average, a woman’s cervix is 10 centimeters and she is 100% effaced when she gives is told to push.

Important Facts About Cervical Dilation and Effacement

While the process of cervical dilation and effacement is natural, each woman will progress at their own pace. Some women will begin dilation and complete the process into the final stages of labor in 24 hours. Other women can take weeks to completely dilate and efface. If the pregnancy is past 40 weeks of gestation or the mother/baby is in danger, the doctor may choose to induce labor to speed up the process.

Treatment for Cervical Dilation and Effacement

There is nothing the woman can do to make the process of cervical dilation and effacement occur more quickly. Mother Nature will work the process as best she can and if there is a necessity for a faster process, medical attention will be required. There is some evidence that semen can help to thin out the cervix which is why sex in the final days of pregnancy is often advised.

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Trimester of Pregnancy Guide
Third Trimester Checklist