As OB/ GYNs will tell you, in order to give birth, your cervix first has to begin dilating. So when looking for signs you're dilating, you're often at a stage where you feel ready to have your baby or think you might be approaching labor. But in order to know the signs, you have to understand dilation and your cervix.
“Early dilation doesn't necessarily correlate with anything, though it can indicate that you won't go to far post-date,” Taraneh Shirazian M.D., OB/GYN at NYU and founder of Mommy Matters, tells Romper.
The cervix plays a crucial role in pregnancy and labor, according to BellyBelly, as it’s supposed to remain closed and hard to protect your uterus from outside bacteria. During pregnancy, however, it begins to "ripen" and thin (often referred to as effacement at your appointments), and will eventually begin to dilate as you near labor and start experiencing contractions. Because the opening to the cervix is sealed by the mucus plug, according to What To Expect, you could lose your mucus plug as you continue to dilate and your cervix thins. (It's worth nothing that this is different from your water breaking.)
Dilating is different for every woman. With my first baby, I was between 4 and 5 centimeters dilated a good week or two before I went into labor. Other women could easily only be 1 or 2 centimeters dilated when they hit labor or get induced.
Mothers who end up going past their due date are much more likely to have a closed cervix, Dr. Shirazian says, especially with the first pregnancy. And while there aren’t any studies backing this up, Dr. Shirazian believes from experience that it’s a “good soft sign” if you’re 1 to 2 centimeters dilated when your due date is approaching.
Aside from getting an update from your doctor at your pregnancy check ups, you can also check out some of the signs highlighted below that may let you know you're dilating.
1. You May Have Mild Or Irregular Contractions
An “uptick in contractions” can indicate that dilation is happening, as Dr. Shirazian explains, since contractions can contribute to dilation. Still, there's no need to be alarmed or assume you're in active labor until you're having consistent contractions that are starting to feel stronger and happening closer together.
2. Your Mucus Plug Dislodges
If you lose your mucus plug, which is usually a slimy, brownish substance, it's a solid sign your cervix is thinning and dilating. Losing your mucus plug is not the same as your water breaking, so there's no need to panic. It can happen anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple hours before labor.
3. You Can Feel It With Your Fingers
As Healthline explained, dilation generally occurs in a very predictable way as you progress into labor stages at the end of pregnancy and during labor especially. You'll start by dilating 1 centimeter, which is the equivalent of a blueberry, and end at 10 centimeters dilated, or the size of a bagel.
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