As you approach your delivery date, your cervix will become dilated naturally. Your cervix must become dilated because the baby has to path through the birth canal to leave your body. For the baby to have room to leave, your cervix has to be dilated at 10 centimeters. While it starts with almost no opening at all, the cervix will gradually increase in diameter until the baby can exit the body.
When you are in labor, your doctor or midwife will check to see how far along you are by seeing if your cervix is dilated. If you want to also see if your cervix is dilated, you can learn how to check a cervix for dilation on your own. Other signs can also tell you how close you are to giving birth.
How to Check a Cervix for Dilation
For a healthy baby, birth and pregnancy must be safe. It is important that you seek regular care from a doctor or midwife throughout your pregnancy. Medical professionals can help to decide if your pregnancy is progressing healthily and if it is safe to check your cervix for dilation. You should always start by asking your doctor what is safe for you to do during pregnancy.
During the ninth month of your pregnancy, your doctor will want to see how close you are to labor. They may check for abdominal palpitations, or they may do an internal exam to see if your cervix has dilated, If your cervix has grown softer and begun to dilate, then the baby has most likely “dropped” in preparation for birth. During this time, you should ask your doctor about any questions that you have and ask if the baby has dropped. You can also ask if your pregnancy is healthy enough for you to check your cervix for dilation.
Preparing to Check Your Cervix for Dilation
To start with, you should wash your hands with soap and warm water. Dirty hands can spread bacteria and infections into your reproductive system that can harm your baby. As a result, it is extremely important for you to wash your hands completely before inserting your fingers into your vagina. You should get your hands wet before apply soap. Afterward, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds as you make sure that every surface of your hands has been washed thoroughly. Next, rinse off the soap completely before you dry your hands.
If you do not have soap and water on hand, you can use a hand sanitizer as long as it contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Make sure your entire hands are covered completely before rubbing vigorously so that all of the bacteria are killed. You should continue rubbing the hand sanitizer between your hands until your hands have completely dried again.
Next, get into a comfortable spot. You may want to lie on your bed, sit on the bed or sit on a table. Do whatever feels the most comfortable to you. You can also squat on the floor if that is more comfortable. It does not matter if what you are doing feel weird because this is a perfectly natural thing to do as you approach birth.
If it feels weird or uncomfortable to check your cervix on your own, a loved one or your doctor can help. Pick someone like a partner that you are comfortable with. You can also have someone just hold your hand as you do this to give you extra support.
Locating Your Cervix at Home
Now that your hands are clean, it is time to check your cervix. Use two fingers to insert them in your vagina. You never want to use more than this because it can be uncomfortable for your body. Most women choose their middle finger and pointer finger since these are the longest fingers. Use your fingers to find the entrance to the vagina. Your palm should be facing toward the front of your body and upwards. The rest of your fingers can be angled toward the anus so that they are in a comfortable, out of the way spot. If there is any pain, remove your fingers immediately and discontinue the attempt.
Next, push your two fingers toward the back of your vagina. The cervix will feel like pursed lips when you are pregnant and it will be located a few inches inside of your vagina. While the cervix changes position during pregnancy, it can be a different spot for every woman. Some women have a cervix that is farther back, and other women have a cervix that is closer to the entrance of the vagina. The cervix will be located toward the end of the vaginal canal no matter what position it happens to be in. Gently touch it because you do not want to cause bleeding by poking it too hard.
If your cervix is starting to dilate, you may be able to easily slip a finger into the middle of your cervix. Be very careful at this point. What you feel at this spot is something similar to a balloon. This balloon-like spot is basically a bag of water that is over the baby’s head. Be careful not to poke or prod this balloon-like spot.
Using your fingers, you can see how far you are dilated. If you are dilated to 10 centimeters, then your body is ready to deliver a baby. You can see how far you are dilated by figuring out how many fingers could fit into the middle of the cervix. One finger means that you are about a center in dilation. Five finger widths means that you are about five centimeters along. While the cervix feels like a tight rubber band at the start of dilation, it will quickly take on a different texture as you become more dilated. When you reach five centimeters, your cervix will feel like the rubber-like jar rings that are used during canning.
You can continue trying to insert your fingers very, very gently into your vagina until it is uncomfortable or you have used your entire hand. Afterward, remember how many finger widths you used to see how far along you are.
Getting Ready for Labor
When your cervix reaches three centimeters (about the width of three fingers), it means that you are approaching the active phase of labor. At this point, it is time for you to go to the delivery center or hospital. If you are having a home birth, you can prepare for that as well.
You can also see how far along you are by tracking your contractions. When you are ready to go to the delivery center, your contractions will last for about 45 to 60 seconds and be about five minutes apart.
Are There Other Ways to Tell If Your Cervix Is Dilated?
While you can easily check to see if your cervix is dilated by using your fingers, some women do not want to do this option. It may be uncomfortable or painful, or you may just dislike the physical aspect of checking for cervical dilation. There are other ways that you can also use to guess how far your cervix is dilated. One of the more popular options is by judging the types of noises that you are able to make. Look for the following stages:
0 to 4 Centimeters: When you are 0 to 4 centimeters dilated, you are most likely able to talk during a contraction without having to use a lot of effort. You are probably not making any unintentional noises right now.
4 to 5 Centimeters: At this stage, it may become impossible or at least difficult for you to talk. Right now, you may start making quiet noises.
5 to 7 Centimeters: When you are this dilated, you may find it almost completely impossible to talk during contractions. You may also be making louder noises.
7 to 10 Centimeters: At 7 to 10 centimeters, you will be unable to talk during a contraction. You may also be making very loud noises. If you are one of the women who do not make any noises during labor, ask someone to ask you a question during a contraction. If you are unable to say a sentence or can only say a short sentence, it will show how much farther along you are in dilation.
Other Signs to Look for
Smells: At about 6 to 8 centimeters in dilation, you may smell a heavy, dusky scent. If the smell in your room suddenly changes, you may be about 6 to 8 centimeters in dilation.
Emotions: Childbirth is an emotional experience, and changes in emotions can show how dilated your cervix is. At 1 to 4 centimeters, you may feel giddy or laugh. At 4 to 6 centimeters, you may laugh at little things between contractions. At around 7 centimeters, other people talking or joking may irritate you.
Physical Symptoms: At about 6 to 7 centimeters, your face may become flushed. Some women tremble uncontrollably at about 5 centimeters. At this stage, you may also feel like you need to vomit and are warm to the touch. Vomiting could also just be a sign of hormonal fluctuations, tiredness or emotions. Some women also curl their toes or stand on their toes when they are around 6 to 8 centimeters dilated.
Blood and Mucus: Some women have stringy discharge at 39 weeks that may also be tinged with slight pink or brown blood. You may also develop mucus and blood in large quantities when you reach about 6 to 8 centimeters in dilation.