All those months of carrying the little one inside your belly, feeding them, taking care of them, and longing for the day you’d hold them in your hands, sounds magical, doesn’t it? In a fantasy world the experience would be painless, with all flowers and butterflies. But this is the real world, and birthing is painful. And not just giving birth. Ever since the signs you are dilating show up, the struggle begins.  

The kind of pain women have to endure from the moment they start dilating is unimaginable. But, when you are prepared for what is to come, things become simpler and less complicated.  

 If you already acknowledge the signs you are dilating, you can prepare yourself and take the necessary steps to get through the painful yet anticipated process. So, let us now go through all the signs that your little one is arriving soon! 


Most women do not really know what a dilating cervix is. So, if you’re here wondering what dilation actually is, you are not alone, sister.  

In simple words, effacement or dilation is a medical term that you will often see doctors use to determine certain changes in the cervix, especially during vaginal birth. In some cases, you might still have heard of these terms but may not have complete comprehension of them or of the signs you are dilating.  

Overview signs you are dilating

Throughout your pregnancy, the cervix stays closed – meaning, it is only zero centimeters dilated, long and firm that helps the baby stay in the uterus till it is all ready to come out. So, if you are wondering what 1 centimeter dilated means, it means that the cervical opening is only 1 centimeter wide.  

While understanding only this may be simple, the dilation process is not as easy as you may think it is. 

So, in order to detect signs you are dilating, it is important to understand what dilation actually is and how it affects your body.  

What Is Cervical Effacement? 

Cervical effacement takes place when the cervix becomes thin and stretches to prepare your vagina for delivery. This process usually starts even before the signs you are of dilating show up. Effacement usually happens when the baby’s head drops into the pelvis and presses against the tissue, along with the hormonal shifts that the body is all prepared for childbirth.  

Cervical Effacement

Doctors keep a track of your cervical effacement through various percentages. For instance, a 100 percent effaced cervix has gone from the shape of a thick walled cone to that of a thin, flat cup, beneath the head of the baby. When both dilation and effacement are at 100 percent, you are ready to push and bring your baby to this world.  

What Is Cervical Dilation?  

Dilation is more of a popular term than effacement. In most cases, we’ve only heard about the term dilation for a general purpose.  

Cervical Dilation

Dilation is considered by the opening of the cervix, allowing for the baby to move from the uterus to the birth canal. There is no set time when it comes to dilation of the cervix. It can begin hours, days, or weeks before your labor starts. Contractions will eventually open the cervix to the dreamy dilation measurement of 10 centimeters.  

Once the cervix dilates to that point, and the head of the baby has descended that far down, the doctors will ask you to keep pushing till you deliver your baby.  

When Does Cervical Dilation Start?  

“When do you start dilating?” – is the most common question among new mothers. Well, as per studies, you only start with dilation or effacement when the baby drops down into your pelvis. This puts an immense amount of pressure on the pelvis, causing you to slip into labor. All of these happen during the first labor stage, also known as early labor. It is one of the very first signs that your baby is about to meet you – but may not as soon as you think it to be.  

When Does Cervical Dilation Start

While doctors put more emphasis on dilation during the labor process, you can actually start with your dilation even before the labor begins.  

In fact, some women might not even realize that they have started to dilate. So, if your doctor says that you have dilated 1 cm at the time of your 37-week check, do not think that the baby is coming pronto. Dilation starts way before the beginning of labor.  

Signs You Are Dilating  

Signs You Are Dilating

As we’ve mentioned earlier, every pregnancy is different and unique. This means, if one has given birth before, the signs may still vary. Some people experience every single symptom and each of the labor stages are pretty noticeable.  

Others have more subtle or tough-to-detect symptoms and signs that leave them wondering if they have at all dilated.  

If you are about to hit your third trimester, it is we bet it is necessary to know of the signs you are dilating.  

Vaginal Pain Or “Lightening Crotch.”  

Known to be the lightning crotch, as it feels like a very sudden shooting pain, this vaginal pain might sometimes happen because of the pressure caused on the nerves. As the baby moves down towards the pelvis, they possibly put more pressure on the cervix. While this may happen way before labor, sometimes it is considered a sign of early labor.  

Backache And Menstrual Cramps  

Backaches and cramps that are identical to the menstrual cramps you get every month are pretty common when you start dilating. With the descending baby applying pressure to the cervix, the back pain might start, or just get worse.  

Each dilation usually feels like menstrual cramps. The changing cervix is the reason behind the pain and cramping experienced in the lower uterine region. It is the exact same location and sensation as the cramps you get while menstruating. Acting labor, however, can be felt in a larger area, but is a similar feeling as cramping.  

While both cramps and backache are pretty common symptoms all throughout pregnancy, their frequency, intensity, and exact feelings might tend to change once you start dilating.  

Bloody Show  

It’s not the prettiest term, but it perfectly explains just a small amount of blood that shows cervical changes. Some notice this, while others do not. Most often, this is a lot like spotting – occasionally, a short, light flow combined with mucus.  

With the mucus plug releasing and the slight cervical changes happening with dilation, experiencing this light bleeding is normal.  

Anytime a woman experiences bleeding or spotting, they should immediately contact their doctor or healthcare provider for immediate help.  


With the modern lifestyle that we lead, paying attention to our instincts is not always the best thing to do. However, our bodies still remain quite instinctual. Many are able to know that they are in labor and are progressing or may sense that labor is imminent.  

Trusting your natural instincts is pretty important as no one can ever know your body better than you. When you are aware of the sings of dilation prenatally, it becomes easy for your when you are slipping into dilation.  

Lack Of Politeness  

In mot cases, women tend to be calm and composed throughout their pregnancy. However, if you see yourself loosing your calm, or being mean to people, assume that your labor is progressing.  

The intensity of the contractions, combined with the fluctuating hormones can pretty much make you far less polite from what you actually are. 

How To Check If Your Cervix Is Dilating?  

How To Check If Your Cervix Is Dilating

Technically, you can check for yourself if your cervix is dilating, but it is not as simple as you think. While it is simple to do on others, reaching down that far to check if your cervix is dilating is a tougher job than what you expect. Even the most expertized people fail to recognize their cervical dilation by themselves.  

If you still believe it is better to know how to do it by yourself, here are the steps you can follow:  

Wash Your Hands Thoroughly  

You definitely do not wish to introduce any new bacteria into your vaginal canal. This would further increase the risks of infection. Trim your nails to make sure there are no internal cuts.  

Assume Your Position  

Squatting down with both your legs spread might help you reach the cervix the best. You may also try to do it by standing or sitting and elevating one leg. You might want to have a support person by your side who will keep you steady throughout the whole process.  

Insert The Index And The Middle Finger 

Push your fingers as far as you can till you reach your cervix. Also, be as gentle as you can to prevent any complications or bruising.  

Evaluate The Dilation 

You can consider your cervix to be 1 cm dilated if you can fit one finger in it. The same is 2 cm when you can easily fit two fingers. Further from there, you may measure how far you can spread your fingers and take it from there on.  

It is not that easy, and neither dependable. So, this might be that one DIY worthy of skipping. But, if you do decide to examine yourself at home, you must still work with your healthcare provider in some ways.  

Phases Of Dilation  

Phases Of Dilation

Dilation might start way before labor but ends when the baby comes out. As per this time, doctors tend to divide dilation into three major phases:  

  • First stage: In this stage, you might experience your regular contraction, which increases in intensity. Every dilation takes place during the first stage of labor. This first stage might go on for many hours. 
  • Second stage: The second stage happens when you actively push your baby out. It might last for minutes to around three hours. This stage starts when the cervix is completely dilated. 
  • Third stage: The third stage includes the delivery of the placenta. It takes something around thirty minutes.  

It is beneficial when you break down the first stage of dilation, especially because it is the longest portion of labor. Stage one of dilation comprises two phases:  

Latent phase: This happens when your cervix has dilated approximately three to four centimeters from zero. It is also known as early labor. The contractions remain regular during this time, and there is a mild increase in intensity.  

Active phase: When the cervix dilates to four centimeter, the contractions will get a bit more intense. They will get closer, and last longer which till push the dilation to ten centimeters.  

Complications Of Dilation  

Complications Of Dilation

While dilation is one of the most natural processes that your body goes through, it does not always go as smoothly as you plan it. Some women experience complications when it comes to dilating naturally. If the cervix does not dilate fully, your doctor will go for a caesarean or C-section delivery.  

Induced Dilation  

At times, your doctor might come to a decision that inducing labor or jump-starting it artificially is the best option for both the mother and the baby. This might happen if:  

  • The mother is more than two weeks past her actual due date.  
  • The water breaks, and labor doesn’t start 
  • Mother has certain health concerns like low amniotic fluid or high blood pressure.  

If the doctor induces dilation, they will probably use multiple means to encourage dilation and begin with labor. These methods may include:  

  • Using the prostaglandin hormone, which causes softens the cervix, thus effacing it. Prostaglandin can either be inserted into the vagina or taken orally.  
  • The oxytocin hormones are used to start contractions, which cause dilation.  
  • Foley Bulb Induction is where the healthcare provider inserts a catheter into your cervix. The catheter is steadily injected with saline solution, which puts pressure on the cervix, forcing it to open.  

Other Signs Of Dilation  

Other Signs Of Dilation

Other than the generic signs of dilation, there are other ways that can hint at your baby’s arrival, too. Some of those hints may include:  

  •         A substantial increase in vaginal discharge  
  •         Bloody show  
  •         Breaking of water  
  •         Back pain  
  •         Diarrhea  
  •         Pelvis pressure  
  •         Intensified contractions  

The Bottom Line  

Signs you are dilating are very prominent. It does not take a lot for you to guess that your cervix has started to dilate.  

Cervical dilation is one of the most important sections of the labor process. But, there are puzzle pieces that need to sit right for the baby to get ready for delivery. So, whether you are just walking around with a 2 cm dilation, or disheartened because you haven’t dilated at all, just take a deep breath and relax.  

Trust your body and the ways it works. Your baby will come out one way or the other just when the time is right.


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