Cervical dilation: this is how the cervix dilates during labour

Cervical dilation: this is how the cervix dilates during labour

When a woman goes into labour, her cervix—usually a tight entrance—widens until it becomes a fitting passage for the baby. This exit happens gradually, opening wider until the baby is born. This process is not the same for all women, but this article shines a light on what to expect during labour.

cervix dilation

This is how the cervix dilates during labour

Normally, the cervix is supposed to be small and tight enough to keep the uterus closed. This way, nothing can get in or out. This changes when a woman goes into labour, when the contractions cause the cervix to expand gradually. The intensity of the contractions get stronger as the woman gets closer to giving birth.

What are the stages of labour?

Medically, there are three different stages of labour to include:

• Stage 1
This is the stage for active, early, and transition labour. At this stage the contractions start and the cervix begins to dilate, and the baby descends towards the pelvis. Once the cervix dilates to 10 cm, stage 1 officially ends and stage 2 begins.

• Stage 2:
At this stage, the body naturally begins to push out the baby. This also comes with a strong urge to push. Stage 2 ends when the baby is born.

• Stage 3
Once the baby is out, the contractions continue so that the placenta can be pushed out. The placenta should come out shortly after the birth of the baby.
In the throes of childbirth, a woman may start feeling like she went through more than three stages of labour, but these are the only stages involved.

A breakdown of the different stages of labour

To make you understand the real size of your cervix as it dilates through the three stages of labour, we will compare it to items you can find around your house.

At 1cm, the cervix is the size of a popcorn kernel

2cm – the size of a grape

3cm, the size of the coin

A woman may not feel the contractions until the cervix has dilated significantly. First-time moms in particular may not understand that labour has begun due to the fact that the experience is mild and irregular and progresses steadily until the cervix is fully dilated. It might take a few hours or even up to a few days for the cervix to be fully dilated.

These are the things to expect during labour contractions:

• Contractions are not concentrated on one side of the body
• The pain feels like it is pushing down from the top of the uterus
• The intensity of the pain increases as time passes
• The pain does not let up even when the woman rests (although rest is needed for the journey ahead)

Stage 1 – things to expect during the active stage of labour

4 cm, it dilates to the size of a small round biscuit
5 cm, the size of a small orange
6 cm, the size of a small mango
7 cm, the size of a medium-sized onion

At this stage, the contractions are usually more intense and more painful than in early labour. While some women elect to manage the pain without medication, others prefer to use an epidural during this time.

Stage 1 – what happens during the transition phase?

8 cm, the size of a big orange
9 cm, the size of an egg roll
10 cm, the size of a large avocado

This stage comes with an intense urge to push. Thankfully, it is also relatively short. The pain is also unbearable at this point. The good news is that the baby is due any minute and the ordeal will soon be over. The transition stage only ends when the cervix is fully dilated.

Stage 2 – what happens during full dilation and pushing?

The baby is ready to come out once the cervix reaches 10 cm dilation. This sensation may feel like an intense urge to poo. Since labor varies from woman to woman, some will experience this stage for only a few hours while others may linger for days. First-time moms seem to experience this the longest.

A woman can push squatting or standing, depending on what her doctor or midwife deems comfortable. Once the baby enters the birth canal, the mom would experience a stretching and burning experience in her vagina. Tearing may also occur at this point.

cervical dilation

Stage 3 – after the birth

The contractions after childbirth aren’t as intense, but they are necessary to push out the placenta. If this doesn’t happen naturally, the birth attendants will speed the delivery process along by injecting synthetic oxytocin.

Amazingly, the cervix will start to go back to its normal size soon after the end of stage 3. This closing process can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Every woman has a unique labour room experience. The takeaway is that visualizing the different dilation sizes can help to manage the pain.

Resource: American Pregnancy 

March for Babies

Read Also: 9 Secret tips for a swift delivery

Written by

Julie Adeboye