How to Dilate the Cervix


Before you can give birth, your cervix has to dilate. When the baby is born, it must travel through the birth canal to reach the outside world. For this to happen, the hole in the cervix has to open wide enough for the baby to get through.

Normally, the cervix will dilate on its own. The body knows how to prepare for labor, so it can naturally dilate the cervix. In some cases, cervical dilation takes place too slowly and needs to be sped up. A midwife or a doctor may use medications or mechanical options to get the cervix to dilate faster.

As a rule, it is always best to ask your doctor before you use any medication or undergo any procedure. This is especially true when you are pregnant. Before you learn how to dilate the cervix, you should talk with your doctor or midwife about your options. You should make sure that your body is actually ready to go into labor. You should also ask for help in determining the safest and most effective method for undergoing cervical dilation.

How to Dilate the Cervix

The cervix normally starts to dilate when labor transitions from early labor to active labor. The body is basically preparing for the baby to come into the world. In some cases, it is necessary to get help during this process. Your midwife or doctor may decide to help the cervix dilate if certain situations have happened such as:

– You have developed an infection during the later stages of pregnancy.
– You are two weeks past your due date and there are no signs of labor starting.
– You are about to undergo a dilation and curettage procedure.
– There is an issue with your placenta.
– Your water broken, but contractions have not started yet.
– You have a medical condition that could cause a risk for your baby.

Before you learn how to dilate the cervix, you should learn about some of the risks. You should never encourage cervical dilation because it is convenient. Dilating your cervix ahead of time carries some health risks for both you and your baby. It is never a good idea to induce labor unless it is actually necessary. Before you take any medication or start a procedure to induce labor, you should carefully discuss the risks and side effects with your doctor. Inducing labor can cause problems like:

– Getting an infection
– Requiring a C-section
– Uterine rupture
– Reducing the baby’s oxygen intake and heart rate
– A premature birth

Medications for Inducing Labor

It is important that you discuss any medications that you want to take with your doctor first. If you doctor prescribes medications to dilate the cervix, they will most likely give you a type of synthetic prostaglandin. The most popular options are misoprostol and dinoprostone. These medications may be given orally or vaginally. They both carry risks for the mother and child, so it is important to discuss these risks before using them.

If your doctor plans on inducing labor, you should ask if he or she is going to use a mechanical dilator. Doctors may use these devices to perform dilation mechanically instead of using chemicals. A type of seaweed known as laminaria or a balloon-tipped catheter could be used. Laminaria is a Japanese seaweed that becomes a sticky gel when it is wet. It can be applied dry within the cervix so that it gradually swells as it becomes wet. The substance is placed just inside the cervix to stimulate labor.

If the catheter is used, it will be inserted into the cervix. Saline is then injected into the balloon so that it starts to expand. This technique causes the cervix to dilate and expand.

How to Dilate the Cervix With Non-Medical Options

Other than medical options like surgery or medication, there are also natural, at-home techniques for starting dilation. Stimulating your nipples can help speed up dilation because this causes the hormone oxytocin to be released. Oxytocin helps to cause labor to start, so you are a partner could perform gentle nipple stimulation.

Having sex with your partner can cause prostaglandins to be released naturally in your body. These chemicals help to stimulate labor to begin, but you should check with your doctor before having sex to make sure that it is safe. For most people, sex should be safe at this stage as long as your water has not broken yet.

You can also try taking a long walk with a partner to help encourage labor to begin. Gravity and the movement of walking help the baby’s head to get into the right place for labor. The pressure of the baby’s head can also stimulate the body to start the labor process. Make sure to walk with a partner in case you need support or in case labor starts.

As you reach the end of your pregnancy, pay attention to signs of cervical dilation. If your cervix becomes dilated, it indicates that you are starting labor. The baby’s head will press down on the uterine opening so that the cervix begins to open and thin out. Your doctor can easily check for dilation of the cervix if you believe that labor has begun.


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