The cervix (from the Latin cervix uteri, meaning “neck of the womb”) is the lower, narrow part of the uterus where it joins with the top end of the vagina.
The cervix is cylindrical in shape and during most of your pregnancy your cervix is long and thick and is generally between 2cm and 4cm long.
Your cervix also holds the mucous plug in place to prevent bacteria entering the uterus.
Before it starts effacing your cervix will be hard and gristly like the tip of your nose – go on feel the tip of your nose.
This is a photo of a closed cervix and the opening in the centre (called the internal os) leads through to the uterus.
Many women do not know the difference between effacement of the cervix and dilation of the cervix.
Towards the end of your pregnancy, your body will be preparing you for labour by releasing hormones such as relaxin and prostaglandins.
The lower part of your uterus will also be preparing for labour and you may start getting pre-labour warm ups and Braxton Hicks contractions, or just start feeling strange sensations in the groin.
Your cervix can start effacing weeks before you go into labour due to the hormones being triggered. You may not even be aware that this is happening or you might start feeling Braxton Hicks sensations and again, this is an indicator that things are changing in your body.
Just be patient!
Your body is working and doing what it is supposed to do at the right time for you and your baby.
As more prostaglandins are trigged your cervix starts to get soft and stretchy like your lips.
During this time your cervix is thinning and shortening and this is the effacement stage, or the thinning and opening of the cervix.
During labour your cervix will continue to efface and gets shorter as it is “pulled up” by the circular muscles of the uterus during contractions.
Many women think the “dilation” stage is the cervix moving outwards and getting wider, but in fact it is the cervix being pulled up and thinning out until it gets to the point where it is part of the lower uterus and has therefore created an opening for the head to get through into the birth canal.
Now listen up…..this is really important.
When you think it is time to go to hospital, and if you decide to have a vaginal exam during your assessment and your healthcare provider says something like “oh you’re only 2cms dilated” this is cause for celebration, not disappointment, as it means that your body has been achieving great things in effacing and dilating the cervix.
The effacement and dilation phase takes time – and that is what your labour is all about, and now your cervix is already 2cm dilated.
Your body is working and that is something to feel good about.
Now it’s time for you and your partner to get excited as it means that your body is working exactly the way it should be.
It’s also important to recognise that dilation of the cervix is really a subjective measurement– you can go from 2cm dilated to fully dilated and pushing your baby out in a really short period of time.
I have been at births like this, and I have had many of my clients report where they have arrived at hospital and been checked and told they are not considered in active labour (4cm) to then birthing their baby an hour later.
You can do this – you need to trust in your body, release all stress and tension and let go of all fears and doubts.
My name is Vicki Hobbs and I am a Childbirth Educator (Back to Basics Birthing), Hypnobirthing Australia Practitioner, Certified VBAC Educator, Remedial Massage Therapist specialising in Pregnancy Massage, Birth & Postpartum Doula, Certified Placenta Encapsulator, Hypnotherapist, Aromatherapist, Reiki Practitioner and Life Coach. I am based in the northern suburbs of Perth and can be contacted by email by firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (08) 9303 9111.