The Truth About Cervical Dilation and Effacement
Labor + Delivery Pro Advice Pros and Cons

The Truth About Cervical Dilation and Effacement

By Lindsey Morrow

No Vaginal Exams!

When I was pregnant with my son, Gabriel, I swore up and down that when I got closer to my due date I was not going to ask to know my dilation in pregnancy. I knew that by having a vaginal check I would be tempted to start prophesying about when my labor would start and what my birth would be like.

Yes Vaginal Exams!

Of course, I had no self-control and I asked for vaginal checks starting at 35 weeks. I was 2-3 cm dilated and 40% effaced.

I could have easily started stressing and wondering if I would go into labor before my due date. I could have got really self-confident and assumed my labor would be shorter because I was already 1/3 done dilating.

I didn’t do any of those things because I knew that my vagina was not a crystal ball.

I repeat.


Dilation in Pregnancy

Dilation, effacement, and station information cannot predict when labor will start, how long, or how easy/hard labor will be.

The only thing that vaginal checks will tell you is what your body has done to prepare for birth.

If you opt for a vaginal check at a prenatal appointment and find out that you aren’t dilated at all – you could have your baby that night. Or a week later. If you find out you are 4-5 cm dilated you could have your baby tomorrow, or two weeks later.

Seriously, vaginas are not crystal balls. Your vagina will not tell you how long you have to go until you push your baby out. Even when you get to 10 cm and start pushing you still have no idea how long it will take.

Stepping into the unknown is the nature of labor, birth and being a parent. Care providers do a disservice to mamas by prophesying when their baby will arrive.

But, I can understand why it is done – because it is HARD to sit in the unknown with an expecting mama and not know with her.

However, care providers should censor birth predictions because it is much more compassionate to hold the space for mamas while they step into the unknown than to predict the future.

What About You?

Did you find out your effacement or dilation in pregnancy?  How was it helpful (or not!) for you? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

Our next reco: Tips From A Doula: How to choose a doula

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