Even if you’ve had the most perfect pregnancy up until now, with nary a hint of heartburn, at some point, you’re probably going to want to just give birth already. But what are some true signs you’re dilating? If it’s your first time, it’s tough to know what dilating feels like.
First, you’ll need to understand the details of dilation and the circumstances surrounding your cervix. Dilation is the opening of the cervix, and it can happen anytime during your ninth month of pregnancy, or even overnight. It’s measured in centimeters, starting at one centimeter (which is about the size of a pea) and going all the way up to 10 centimeters (the size of a grapefruit slice).
The cervix is an important player in pregnancy, particularly when it comes to delivery. As detailed by the study, “The mechanical role of the cervix in pregnancy,” the cervix goes from being closed during your nine months to protect the fetus from infection and allow it to fully develop to subsequently having to shorten, soften, and dilate in preparation for labor. You might hear your OB-GYN use terms like “ripening” or “thinning” in relation to your cervix, which means that it’s getting ready for the big event.
But while you might get super excited thinking that labor has started if your doctor tells you that you’ve begun dilating during an exam, don’t be so quick to head to the hospital. Because if you’ve ever been sent home after only opening up 1 centimeter dilated, then you know that dilation is really a numbers game. “Early dilation doesn’t necessarily correlate with anything, though it can indicate that you won’t go too far post-date,” Taraneh Shirazian M.D., OB-GYN at NYU and founder of Mommy Matters, tells Romper. You’ll need to be 10 centimeters dilated in order to start pushing, after all.
Your OB-GYN will probably check how dilated you are at your prenatal appointments as you get closer to your due date. But if you’re curious between appointments, here’s how to tell if you’re dilating without checking or calling your doctor.
Dilation doesn’t have to be a mysterious part of pregnancy. By knowing the signs, you can guesstimate how far along you are — and how soon it will be until you’re at those all-important 10 centimeters of dilation, when you’ll be able to deliver your beautiful baby.