First time mothers-to-be have all sorts of things to freak out about. So, us childbirth veterans like to occasionally discuss the situations that can cause some anxiety. One of the questions I commonly hear, especially since sex education is sorely lacking, is as follows: how far does your cervix need to dilate to have a kid? No question is dumb question, dear reader, especially when you're preparing to give birth.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), your cervix needs to be 10 cm dilated, or about the size of a cantaloupe, before you can enter the second stage of labor and deliver your child. But, of course, getting to 10 cm is hardly an "easy" task. The very thought of having a sensitive part of our bodies stretched to enormous proportions is daunting. But enough to squeeze a whole human being through?! Well, that might just be cringe worthy for a first timer, to say the least.
Chaunie Brusie, B.S.N., tells Healthline that the first stage of labor is divided into two parts. The beginning of labor is commonly known as Phase One or "Latent Labor." During latent labor the cervix is softening and thinning out, what medical providers call "effacing." Contractions have also begun during this phase, but may not be coming in regular intervals. Brusie says during this initial period, the cervix dilates to around 2 cm or, according to her handy chart, the size of a cherry.
Phase two is "Active Labor." During active labor contractions have started to become regular. Your cervix dilates to 3-4 cm, or about the size of a lime slice (thank you, handy chart!). The cervix continues to dilate and the contractions grow in frequency and intensity until the cervix has reached full dilation at the previously aforementioned, luck number 10 cm dilation. This is roughly the size of a bagel.
Once the cervix is fully dilated, phase two of labor begins. According to BabyCenter, this is the point during labor where the pushing starts. And BabyCenterUK explains that during phase two, the baby is beginning to travel down the birth canal and is moving into position ready for birth. When the cervix is fully dilated at 10 cm and the baby is in position, the urge to push comes on strong and the birthing can begin. Stage two lasts until the main event of the baby, or babies, being fully born.
It is after the birth that phase three of labor begins, according to What To Expect. Sometimes people call this “afterbirth” at this point. The no-longer-pregnant person's body still has important work to do in delivering the placenta. Your body specifically creates this separate organ to nourish the fetus while in utero. (It is so cool that we create extra organs out of nothing! Science rocks!) After birth the placenta is no longer needed, obviously, as the baby will now be getting nourished outside of mama's body.
The final stage of labor can take anywhere from five to 35 minutes. Personally, I used to scoff at my mother's story of nurses "jumping on my stomach" to get the placenta out. But after my own experiences? Let's just say, I'm sorry, mom. I never should've doubted the truth of your words! Those nurses are damn strong, too! My belly will never be the same after their attentive palpating.
After the placenta has been delivered the only thing left is for your health provider to sew up any perineal tears that may have occurred. And if you're anything like me, then it’s time to enjoy your new baby (and maybe some pizza, too).
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