pregnant woman at exam, signs your cervix is opening
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5 Signs Your Cervix Is Actually Opening

Here’s what to watch for.

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We need to talk about some of the symptoms of an open cervix during pregnancy. Because most new parents-to-be are anxious about labor and delivery. And they’re not really sure what to expect or how they’ll “know” it’s time. So how are you supposed to know if your cervix is dilating?

We asked the experts how to tell the difference between lightning crotch and the symptoms of an open cervix during pregnancy — because sometimes it’s hard for even seasoned moms to be able to tell and know for sure.

What does it mean for your cervix to open?

“The cervix starts out at zero centimeters, and slowly softens and begins to create an opening when labor is a couple of weeks away,” says Rachel Taylor, a registered labor and delivery nurse. “The cervix will go from zero centimeters to 10 centimeters open when it's time to push the baby out,” she says.

When does your cervix open during pregnancy?

Taylor says that in most cases, your cervix will slowly begin to open around 37 to 40 weeks gestation depending on how active mom is and how many babies she’s given birth to.

However, just because you’re having symptoms of an open cervix during pregnancy, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in labor, Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D., an OB-GYN, medical travel blogger, and half of the twin duo for TwinDoctorsTV tells Romper.

Signs your cervix is opening/opened

Sometimes you can literally feel your cervix start to open, according to Taylor. “You may notice what feels like a deep "lightning crotch" when the cervix is beginning to open. You may also notice "wiggle feelings" deep in the pelvis from the cervix softening and opening, which many women mistake for baby movement.

And there’s more. The experts list five potential signs your cervix is opening for you to look out for.


A persistent mucus discharge

Oh that lovely mucus plug (and what a name, right?). Taylor says, “The release of the mucus plug is a sign that your cervix has begun to open and labor will be starting within a few days.” Abdur-Rahman adds that once your mucus plug is expelled, it causes an initially large mucus discharge as the plug comes out. This initial discharge is then followed frequently by a persistent discharge as the cervix tries to create a new plug."


Increasing pelvic pressure

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According to Abdur-Rahman, while your cervix is opening, it actually "frequently shortens," as well. "As it shortens, the baby's head tends to move down lower into the pelvis creating a sensation of pelvic pressure."


Vaginal spotting and/or bleeding

This seems reasonable since your cervix is stretching and opening, right? You'll definitely want to keep an eye on it. Dr. Alan Lindemann, M.D., OB-GYN, and maternal mortality expert says, “There can be a bloody show if a small amount of blood accompanies the release of the mucous plug.” He adds that along with the amount of bloody show that occurs after you lose your mucus plug, you’ll feel a low backache or cramps, similar to feeling like you need to use the bathroom.


Constantly feeling like you need to pee or poop

According to Abdur-Rahman, "As the baby's head moves into the pelvis, it often will press on the colon and the bladder. This often makes women feel as though they need to frequently urinate or have a bowel movement." Lindemann says that you’ll feel a “pelvic heaviness” for sure.

Will this feel differently than the entirety of your third trimester of having to pee? I'm not sure.


Uterine cramping and/or contractions

Hopefully, during the beginning of labor, your baby's head will be moving down, getting ready to come out. Taylor says this “lightning” feeling of the baby’s head dropping is a sign your cervix will start opening soon. And as that head moves down the birth canal, "it applies pressure to the lower portions of the uterus that sit just above the cervix,” according to Abdur-Rahman. “This then causes the uterus to send signals to the brain indicating that 'it is time to have a baby,'" he says. "The brain then releases hormones that cause contractions." Abdur-Rahman adds that this sequence of events is called "The Ferguson's Reflex."

If you notice the five signs above, it may be a good time to call your healthcare provider — your baby just might be on the way. And if you’re still fairly early in your pregnancy, it’s crucial you call your healthcare provider right away for an assessment.


Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D., an OB-GYN and medical travel blogger for TwinDoctorsTV.

Rachel Taylor, a registered labor and delivery nurse, mother-baby nurse, founder of Mama Did It, and a Spinning Babies® certified parent instructor.

Dr. Alan Lindemann, M.D., OB-GYN and maternal mortality expert.

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