After waiting a long nine months, you may just find yourself in a hurry to get things over with. The anticipation of finally meeting your newborn can get intense, and with the added pains of labor and delivery, you might be in more of a rush. As your delivery nears, you’ll hear a lot about your cervix and how much it has dilated. Chances are, the number will be lower than the required 10 centimeters, which means you'll want to know how to speed up dilation.
What is dilation anyway, and why is it so important? Cervical dilation plays a central part in the vaginal delivery of your baby. According to What To Expect, in the last few weeks of your pregnancy, your cervix begins opening up so that your baby has a way out of the birth canal. Your cervix will go from closed to a dilation of 10 centimeters, which is when you will be ready to push. For some women, the article noted, dilation can be a gradual process that takes days or weeks, and for some lucky women, it can happen overnight.
If you’re looking for a way to give your cervix a little more motivation, your doctors may have a solution. In an interview with Romper, Dr. Eva Martin, founder of Elm Tree Medical, says that the medication Pitocin — which is usually administered at the hospital through an IV — is designed to increase the strength and frequency of contractions with the goal of increasing dilation. There are some occasions however, explained the website for South Shore Medical Center, when Pitocin can cause strong contractions without dilating the cervix, which could stress out the baby. It’s always important to remember that every woman and every pregnancy and delivery are different, so there are never any one-size-fits-all solutions.
There are a few natural ways to speed up dilation that may only work if your body is truly ready to go into labor. Parents suggested that taking a brisk walk or keeping active can pull your baby down (thanks gravity) and help the cervix open a little quicker. Having sex, the article suggested, may also help, because the prostaglandins in semen can soften the cervix and make it dilate faster.
It’s important to note that while there are things that can help speed up dilation, there are some things that can slow it down. When the pains of labor hit you hard, and you ask for that epidural, you may notice that things stop progressing. According to Martin, that's because epidurals can slow down labor. They can make your contractions weaker, which can slow down the dilation process, so it’s something to keep in mind when you go to the hospital.
The best part of delivering a baby is that soon enough, the unbearable anticipation and pain will be over and counting each centimeter of dilation will be a small note in your history book. (OK, maybe a big note.) No matter how long it takes to hit 10 centimeters, just remember that the frustrations of pregnancy and delivery will fade into the background from the moment you hold your newborn baby. (And then new frustrations begin.)