Cervical dilation during pregnancy occurs during labour, allowing the baby to pass through the birth canal. Uterine contractions and pressure of the baby's head against the cervix encourage cervical dilation and changes needed to complete birth. Dilation won't occur until the body is ready; however, some techniques may help dilation progress once the cervix is favourable. Attempts to facilitate labour and cervical dilation should only be used once you're in labour, starting with early labour.
Walk as much as possible once you're in labour, which allows gravity and body movement to encourage the baby to descend into the birth canal. Pressure from the baby's head against the cervix can assist dilation and effacement, or thinning, of the cervix, and also facilitate contractions, which will further assist in dilation. Have someone walk with you for support, and walk as long as you can tolerate it.
Use a birth ball if one is available and sit on it with legs spread apart. Rest your upper body against a chair or bed while you squat on the birth ball to help widen your pelvis and relax pelvic muscles. Consider rocking gently on the ball to use gravity to help bring the baby's head against the cervix to assist in dilation.
Sit or stand in a warm shower to invoke relaxation. Allow yourself to relax as much as possible during labour to prevent tense muscles, which can make the physical work of labour harder. Use a warm shower to ease tension, which can help contractions and cervical dilation. Alternately, use a tub of warm water to lie in; ensure you have assistance in getting in and out of the tub for either method.
Consider allowing your physician to rupture the amniotic sac, or membranes, if you are already in labour and she advises it. Increased contractions can occur once the amniotic sac is broken, which help speed dilation and softening of the cervix. Consider other options for dilating the cervix, such as cervical balloon insertion or the use of cervical softening pills or gels, as suggested by your physician.
Consider pharmaceutical intervention to help cervical dilation, if needed. Talk with your physician about the benefits and risks if she suggests using Pitocin to induce contractions or make contractions stronger or more regular, so cervical dilation and thinning can occur.
Cervical dilation may take several hours, or days, to complete.
Tips and warnings
- Cervical dilation may take several hours, or days, to complete.