Where is the cervix?
Your cervix or mouth of the womb is the area between the vagina and the uterus. In a non-pregnant state it is a small narrow canal that allows only the passage of sperm to pass through. It is shaped like a small doughnut and feels like the tip of your nose.
What function does it have in pregnancy?
During pregnancy this canal closes. It remains firmly closed with a mucus plug in place preventing any nasties from reaching your unborn child. It acts like a plug holding in the baby and amniotic fluid. Towards the end of your pregnancy it starts to soften or ripen in preparation for labour.
How does the cervix “ripen”?
As pregnancy draws to an end the cervix begins to soften or ripen as a result of hormonal changes in the body. This allows it to respond to the contractions of the uterus. As the uterus contracts, the cervix starts to thin and open. This is known as the effacement and dilation of the cervix.
How will I know that I am dilating?
Dilation is measured in centimeters. Don’t worry – it is not measured by holding up a ruler. An internal examination is done to determine just how many centimeters open you are. Each doctor or midwife has a pretty good estimate of dilation by feeling how far open they can part two fingers internally. In a normal well progressing labour the cervix should dilate roughly one centimeter an hour.
What if I don’t dilate?
Some women don’t dilate adequately during labour. This can be a result of stress and anxiety experienced by the mother. Try to stay calm and relaxed. Also try to spend as much time as possible in the upright position. This will cause the baby’s head to apply pressure on the cervix encouraging it to open. In some instances the doctor may opt to give the mother a small amount of artificial oxytocin to get your labour back on track.
What if I dilate too early in my pregnancy?
Your cervix will be assessed by either an ultrasound or an internal examination during your pregnancy. If it is found to be shortening and compromised, a small stitch is done to keep it closed. This is done under anaesthetic and is a quick and simple procedure. The stitch will be removed closer to your due date.
Visit www.mymidwife.co.za to read more about Pippa Hime and her practice.