As labor nears, the
cervix begins to thin or stretch (efface) and open
(dilate) to prepare for the passage of the baby through the birth canal
(vagina). How fast the cervix thins and opens varies from woman to woman. In
some women, the cervix may efface and dilate slowly over a period of weeks. A
first-time mother often will not dilate until active labor begins.
Late in your pregnancy, your health professional may manually check
(wearing sterile gloves) how much your cervix has effaced and dilated.
As the baby's head drops
down into the pelvis, it pushes against the cervix and causes the cervix to
relax and thin out, or efface.
Throughout your pregnancy your cervix has been
closed and protected by a plug of mucus. When the cervix effaces, the mucus
plug is loosened and passes out of the vagina. The mucus may be tinged with
blood. This passage of the mucus plug is called "show" or "bloody show." You may or may not notice when the mucus
Effacement is described as a percentage. For
example, if your cervix is not effaced at all, it is 0% effaced. If the cervix
has completely thinned, it is 100% effaced.
After the cervix begins to efface, it
will also begin to open (cervical dilatation).
dilatation is expressed in centimeters from 0 to 10. Zero means that the cervix
is closed, and 10 means that it is completely dilated.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
November 2, 2011
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
November 02, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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