Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Colorado Mountains
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Effacement is the 'flattening out' or drawing up of the cervix. So what felt like a 'nose tip' projecting into your vagina, will now be gone (or half gone) and will press up and flatten to the top of your vaginal canal.
Dilation is the 'tip end' of the cervix opening. You can sometimes feel a tiny 'slit' or opening at the tip, or more 'dimple like' if you are not pregnant. It will dialate a bit during your menstrual cycle also. During pregnancy, you could be dialated a 'finger tip or around 1cm' for months! ...or you could walk around 3-4 cm for the final month (like I am currently).
You will have either or both effacement and dialation going on towards the last few weeks as things 'prepare' for the birth.
It can be frustrating! I'm 50% effaced and 2-3 cm, but have been so for two weeks. I was 50% effaced and 'fingertip' dialated for the last few months. This is a third pregnancy, and all it could mean is that my uterus/cervix remembers what it should be doing in preparation!
If you know what your cervix normally feels like, then it's easy to do your own checks. If you are metric challenged...hehe.. then it's about 2.54 cm per inch. So when fully dialated at 10 cm, you will have a cervical opening about 4 inches across. Usually enough for baby to pass through (this is also usually the size incision for a c-section).
Be careful if you slip a fingertip into the opening, as the membranes can get disturbed and you can spot or bring on a contraction. But a gentle, 'swipe' across the cervix tip to see about how large the opening is, should be safe. Wash hands well, before and after. Usually late in pregnancy there is alot of increased discharge, that will help flush any bacteria down and out anyway. It's definitely more comfortable than getting a latex gloved 'professional' check! My midwife has never checked me, just goes on what I tell her at my appts.