As the pregnant woman gets close to the expected delivery date, she may have a question in mind, which is: How do I know if I’m expanding? This doubt is normal, especially for first-time mothers. But do not worry! There are several signs that show that you are heading for labor .
What is Dilation?
The cervix is the opening of the uterus and sits at the top of the birth canal (vagina). During pregnancy, it looks like the tip of the nose, but during labor it becomes softer, like pursed lips.
During labor, the cervix opens. This is because the contractions have the function of tightening the uterine muscle causing this tight and closed neck to open up to 10 centimeters. This process is called dilation . Sometimes, some women are dilated one, two, or even more centimeters before labor actually begins.
How to Check My Dilation?
The question of how to know if I am dilating is usually answered when there is a chance of verifying the dilation. But, as with any intervention in labor and birth, exams to check for dilation carry risks that include:
- Increased risk of infection,
- Premature rupture of membranes,
- False readings (error in reading centimeters)
- Repentance or disappointment in the possible “lack” of expansion.
Regardless of the reasons a woman needs to know about her dilation, tests are useful to get a sense of what is happening, and what is yet to come.
Some methods that can help a pregnant woman to check her dilation include:
- Touch self-examination
- Mucous plug
- The purple line
- Birth sounds
- Physical indicators
All of these methods are observational . They were developed and adjusted in conjunction with countless health professionals who attend births every day.
It is important to remember that women are not machines, they are organisms evolving in labor. Not all of these methods can be applied to all pregnant women as each woman is unique.
Self touch exam
The best way to do the self-exam is at DPP or nearby. The pregnant woman sitting on the toilet with one foot on the floor and the other on the seat, introduces two fingers into the vagina and makes a movement towards the anus.
A pregnant woman’s cervix is like pursed lips as if to kiss. When the woman is dilating, a finger slides easily into the middle of the cervix (in the same way that it can slide into the mouth).
With the dilation advancing, this hole becomes more like a stretched elastic and the total dilation happens when in the touch nothing is felt from the lap, only the baby’s head.
A woman may or may not show any bloody secretions at the beginning of labor, but blood and mucus often come in large quantities during contractions, especially when the woman approaches 6 to 8 cm in dilation.
A study carried out and published by Lancet magazine showed that a purple line “grows” between the buttocks indicating cervical dilation. The line starts at the anal margin at the beginning of the job and rises like a “mercury thermometer”. When it reaches the top, the woman is in full dilation .
The authors state that “an increase in intra-pelvic pressure causes congestion in the veins around the sacrum, which, together with the lack of subcutaneous tissue over the sacrum, shows the results in this purple line”.
An indicator that can help to detect progress is the characteristic sounds that a woman makes in labor. Usually, in the first phase of labor (0-4cm) there is little or no “birth” noise , the pregnant woman can speak without or with any effort during a contraction.
Around 4-5 cm of dilation, talking becomes very difficult or almost impossible during a contraction. The pregnant woman starts to make noises that sound like open vowels or a resonant tinnitus .
At 5-7 cm the noise is louder, it is practically impossible to speak during a contraction, and the sounds can become repetitive. If a woman has quiet labor, a good way to get an idea of how your progress is going is to wait until a contraction begins and ask a question that requires a full sentence answer.
The way in which she is able or unable to respond during contraction is the indicator of the evolution of childbirth.
Premature labor or pre-labor (1-4 cm dilation) often makes mothers think “It’s now”, and feel happy, excited, and even in denial about actual labor.
Moving around in active labor (4-6 cm dilation) often still keeps the mother smiling and she can even laugh between contractions and participate in the conversation between them.
In active labor (5-7 cm dilation), the mother is usually more irritated by banal conversation or by people who try to distract her.
It may take some time after a contraction for her to return to the outside world, or she may choose to simply remain in her birth space known as “partolândia” , inside her bubble, and not interact with the environment that surrounds her.
Around the transition stage (in general, 7 cm of dilation), even between contractions, the mother may become doubtful, unable to make concrete decisions (“I don’t know”, in response to questions), or irrational. This restlessness, these doubts are a good indicator that the mother is in the final stretch.
This method can be tricky to understand, because this ’emotional mapping’ can be distorted by the baby’s position or the mother’s emotional.
Many women will find that near the expulsive, they may show signs similar to those of the flu. If a mother suddenly feels like vomiting or complains of nausea, has a flush on her face, feels hot, or starts to shake uncontrollably, she may be progressing to the second stage of labor.
Vomiting alone can be just emotions, or fatigue, facial flushing is a good sign of dilation , and shaking uncontrollably can mean tiredness or a fever. These indicators are more reliable when two or all three are noticed together.
- Involuntary curling of the toes during contractions, even when the rest of the body is loose and relaxed (6 to 8 cm).
- If standing, instead of shrinking her toes, the mother stays at her fingertips while leaning over something (6 to 8 cm).
- Chills in the lower back, buttocks and thighs (9 to 10cm).
The methods presented can tell us how dilated a woman is, but she cannot say whether she is close to giving birth to her baby. Listening to your body and the signals it gives helps us to know what stage the mother is in this hard work.
The journey of some women during labor can be like a short walk, while for others it can be like a long trip. But most of all, these methods can help mothers know what the next step will be in bringing their child into the world!
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My name is Dr. Alexis Hart I am 38 years old, I am the mother of 3 beautiful children! Different ages, different phases 16 years, 12 years and 7 years. In love with motherhood since always, I found it difficult to make my dreams come true, and also some more after I was already a mother.
Since I imagined myself as a mother, in my thoughts everything seemed to be much easier and simpler than it really was, I expected to get pregnant as soon as I wished, but it wasn’t that simple. The first pregnancy was smooth, but my daughter’s birth was very troubled. Joana was born in 2002 with a weight of 2930kg and 45cm, from a very peaceful cesarean delivery but she had already been born with congenital pneumonia due to a broken bag not treated with antibiotics even before delivery.