They say that giving birth can be one of the most painful experiences, and as someone who’s done it, I agree. But the thing is, you don’t just go from pregnant to immediately pushing out a baby. It’s a process. For some, it’s fairly quick, while for others, it can take days. Within that process, something happens to your cervix that’s known as dilation—that is, the way in which your cervix widens in order to evict your baby into the world. And so, we asked several moms to describe
what 7 centimeters dilation feels like, and let’s just say they had some stories.
Why 7 centimeters, you ask? Because that’s
roughly the width of a soda can, and we can all relate to that. So next time you’e about to rip the tab off a Coke, think back on these fun anecdotes. No, but really, you’ll be OK. It doesn’t feel the same for everyone (which you’ll learn from all these stories). It also seems to change from pregnancy to pregnancy, so if you’ve done this before, don’t expect it to feel exactly like it did the first time. And hey, all the mamas who chimed in here made it past 7 centimeters till they had their babies—and you will, too! Lauren Wellbank, 37, Allentown, PA
“With my second, I was 4 centimeters dilated when I got to the hospital (in active labor) and was seen in triage. By the time I got into my room and was dressed and hooked up to everything, they checked me again and I was 7 centimeters. It was painful, but not as painful as the transition from 7-to-10 centimeters.
My epidural didn't go well, and it only worked on one side of my body, so I remember the contractions hurting a lot. My daughter was born a very short time later.” Aiysha Malik, United Kingdom, 41
“I told them I was ready to push and they told me that I was only 7 centimeters dilated. Our baby was born about 2 minutes later because, apparently,
measuring the cervix is not an exact science. Turns out that listening to women who are listening to their bodies is really the best thing.” Olivia Hinebaugh, 34, Washington, DC
“7 centimeters with my first was when my water broke, and I needed to get into the jacuzzi tub and zone out and moan through contractions to get through them. 7 centimeters with my second, I was suddenly really nauseous and threw up.
Classic transition shakiness and nausea. Oh, and I'm not sure about my dilation with my third, but there was definitely a moment of pukiness and, like, let's get down to business.” Kristen Beddard Heimann, 32, New York
births were unmedicated, so I speak from that experience. For my first, 7 centimeters was hard as hell, then followed by 4 hours of pushing. For my second, 7 centimeters was hard as well, but thankfully over soon after! I will say that probably by 7, 8, and 9 centimeters, after being in labor for some time, you can start to feel the contractions picking up again and really aren't sure you can make it through another one...but then we do because women are pretty awesome!” Valerie Usher, 30, Southwest Ohio
“This (7 centimeters) was the point when I would always scream, ‘I can’t do this. I literally can’t do it!’ because the pain was so much more than just in my cervix and uterus. My mind basically took me out of my body and that’s the only way I survived. With my third, I went from 4-to-10 centimeters in less than 20 minutes (
due to Pitocin, and they wouldn’t shut it off). I asked for an epidural at 4 centimeters. I couldn’t hold still when the anesthesiologist was inserting the needle because it felt like a giant drill was pummeling my abdomen. He scolded me. Can you believe that? Then, 5 minutes later, there’s the baby. Like, couldn’t someone tell me the baby would be here soon so I didn’t think I needed an epidural? I hate epidurals. I was desperate, thinking the pain felt way more like a 7 centimeters than at 4 centimeters, which it pretty much almost was.” Jamie Kenney, 36, New Milford, CT
“Victorious! I didn’t get past 5 centimeters with my first, who wound up an emergency c-section—I was contracting like crazy, but I just wasn’t dilating. My second, I was
trying really hard for a VBAC. So when my midwife told me I’d gotten to 7 centimeters, I already felt like things were looking better than they did the first time around. It felt like, ‘Your body isn’t incapable of this. You’re doing it!’” Melissa Gräf, 34, Massachusetts
My water broke at what I assume was 7 centimeters (we got to the hospital at 8 centimeters) and it sort of felt like the jaws of life were crushing my uterus. Apparently it wasn’t too bad because I was really worried about getting amniotic fluid on my seat and scooted my butt to the floor.” Aileen Weintraub, 44, New York
“It felt like hell. I'd been in labor for over 25 hours. My intrathecal had worn off and my anesthesiologist had decided to sleep in that morning. I'm pretty sure there were darts coming out of my eyes.”
Ivette Aranda, 26, Denver, CO
“I was actually 7 centimeters when I was admitted. I had contractions starting around 7 a.m., went to hospital around 3 p.m., and was 7 centimeters. I felt fine. Contractions just felt like strong menstrual cramps, but once they broke my water...it felt like hell, couldn't even talk.”
Monica Spangler, 35, West Orange, NJ
“Heaviness. Hard to describe the sensation because it's not the ‘ring of fire’ part, so not painful. But my babies were engaged to that area at the point of 7 centimeters. I wasn't able to really change positions without help and it felt like
pushing was imminent.” Libby Chisholm Fearnley, ,
“We got to the hospital (and) they checked me. I had been laboring at home for 24 hours. I was 7 centimeters, and on the next contraction, I was pushing. Some
nurse said not to push because I wasn’t fully dilated, but I couldn’t stop. It felt like nothing I can articulate. I was finished but my body apparently was not. He was out in about five-to-ten minutes.” Elizabeth Xu, 33, Toledo, OH
“I went into Labor & Delivery (at) 7 centimeters. I was super surprised, even though maybe I shouldn't have been, because I'd been having contractions for more than 24 hours at that point. But it wasn't particularly terrible, especially when I compare it to what was to come. Oh, and the number meant nothing for me because it still took me about 36 hours (including 5.5 hours of pushing) for the kid to actually pop out.”
Katherine Martinelli, 37, Ann Arbor, MI
second pregnancy, I was a week late and just continued doing everything up until the end. So the day before I gave birth, I dropped my older son at preschool and went for my checkup. My midwife informed me that I was 7 centimeters dilated. I'd had some contractions the evening before. My in-laws had come to stay the night in case, but then left to go to work in the morning. My midwife sent me on my way and told me to call her the second contractions started (rather than waiting until they were a certain number of minutes apart).
My in-laws came again to spend the night to watch our older son. I woke up in the middle of the night with contractions, waited about 20 minutes, then woke up my husband and called the midwife who met us immediately at the hospital. I tried to convince my husband that we should walk to the hospital so we didn't have to worry about parking. But it was March and there was still snow on the ground from a recent blizzard, it was the middle of the night,
and I was in active labor. The midwife showed up to the hospital right after us. I got an epidural, and the baby was born a while later. I should note that with my first pregnancy, I was at the hospital in active labor and in excruciating pain by 5 centimeters, so every pregnancy really is different.” Naomi K. Honova, ,
“I had my second baby in May. I had contractions starting around 9:30 p.m. and went off to the hospital a couple of hours later at about midnight. I actually found the contractions fairly manageable;
hypnobirthing mantras and holding my husband’s hand were helpful. I got to the hospital (this was in Munich, Germany) and they told me I was at 7 centimeters. I opted to hop in the birthing tub, and my second son was born about an hour and a half later!” Sunita Bassey, 26, Denver, CO
“I was 7 centimeters when I was admitted with my third baby. I had my membrane sweep that morning at 3.5 centimeters. Went home, went about my usual activities. At about 7 p.m., I gave the kids and myself a shower. My husband left to get some groceries. I sat down to have a late meal (at 8:30 p.m.) and
contractions started. I started timing them a couple of minutes later and told my husband I have to go in. Arrived at the hospital 9:45 p.m. Nurse checked and said I was (still) at 7 centimeters. Baby arrived an hour later.”