Whether you're expecting your first baby or your fifth, the end of pregnancy is an exciting time for any mom-to-be. There's so much to do to get ready for the new addition, let alone so much to think about. Between finding the best car seat to making it to all those doctor appointments, there's just so much anticipation. It's hard to contain your excitement and, of course, every body sensation sends you to Google, especially as you get closer to your due date. Like when do you start effacing during pregnancy? How do you know if your body is getting ready for labor? I reached out to maternity expert and midwife Kath Fray to ask these questions.
What is effacing anyway? According to the American Pregnancy Association, effacement is the process of your cervical thinning as your baby drops and your body prepares for labor. In the weeks before your due date, your cervix will gradually thin, shorten and become soft, getting ready to open, or dilate. If you find yourself at the doctor being told that you're 50 percent effaced, get ready to celebrate because labor is right around the corner. (Although, your body still has some work to do, so don't expect an immediate delivery.)
But when can you expect this effacement to happen? Fray tells Romper in an email that effacement typically doesn't happen until the end of pregnancy. "The woman's cervix begins to shorten (efface) and open (dilate) in early latent labor," she says. So if you're a mom who just left your appointment with news that you're effacing, congratulations — the end of the road is upon you. But how can you tell if you're effacing? How can you tell if you're close to meeting your little one? Can you feel it happening?
According to Fray, the only way you can know if you are effacing is if a doctor or nurse does a medical exam. Fray explains, "Once the cervix is fully effaced (no length left) and dilated to 3 to 4 centimeters, she will typically establish into strong active labor." The only way to know if your body is getting ready to give birth is if "the midwife or obstetrician doing a vaginal exam is able to confirm how effaced and dilated the woman's cervix is," Fray explains. So effacement happens in the last few weeks of pregnancy, just before you go into labor.
I remember during the end of my pregnancy, I began to feel like my baby was going to fall out of my body. Could this be effacing, I thought? While your body changes and gets ready for birth, there are all kinds of sensations that come up, but you'll still need a medical exam to know for sure whether or not you are effacing or actually dilating.
If you're at the end of your pregnancy, your doctor should routinely check for effacement every time you get a check up, according to the American Pregnancy Association. But again, make sure to ask if you're unsure. It always feels better to know whether or not you need to stick extra close to home (or the hospital) for the next few days. The last thing you want is to go into labor at the most inconvenient moment. Thanks to science, we can get a pretty good idea when to expect the expected, so there's time to prepare and plan.
While effacing typically happens towards the end of pregnancy, be sure to ask your doctor to give you an exam if you're concerned. Otherwise, rest and enjoy the last few weeks of peace and quiet as much as you can.