Dilation/effacement ?

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mandi04's picture
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Dilation/effacement ?

Just out of curiosity and probably very obvious but how can one be 'almost completely effaced' and only 2cm dilated? If you are completely effaced doesn't that mean your cervix is completely thinned out and pretty much non-existent? I don't really remember all the details of my labors with my first two but I know with my third effacement happened slower than dilation and even less than an hour before he was born I was 'only' 70% effaced.
I was 2cm/80% at my 33 week appointment, then in the hospital last week I was 2cm/'almost completely effaced' (different nurse, might have been no change at all from the week prior). I'm not concerned about being 2cm...but I guess I am about the effacement. Obviously I'm still pregnant and hope to be for at least the next 9 days but the whole image of a non-existent cervix barely holding my baby in is on my mind a lot, especially with this being #4.

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This picture explains it well.: Dilation and Effacement. Effacement is simply the shortening of the cervix. So while you may have a very thin cervix, it doesn't necessarily mean it is opening. I was pretty much completely effaced and not even a fingertip dilated for a while with DS.

heatherliz2002's picture
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My understanding is they are two different things and one can happen before the other. Think of your cervix as having to change in two different directions in order to let the baby out. It needs to go from thick to thin (so a vertical change) and from closed to 10cm (a horizontal change). I think it's really common for one change to take place before/faster than the other. Does that make any sense? I'm sure someone can explain this better than I can! Lol! Looking a picture/diagram makes it a lot clearer.

Edit: Beth and I posted at the same time... I knew someone could explain it better than me ;-). With DD I was 75-80% effaced and barely 1cm for weeks before she was born.

Nell4Him's picture
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So what do they mean when they say long or short?

mandi04's picture
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Thanks for that picture! The one with the baby's head really helped my 'mental image'. I had kind of thought 100% meant the cervix was completely thinned out and pretty much gone.
Janelle- I'd guess long means little to no effacement, I guess short could be dependant on how far along someone is?

ourfirstblessing's picture
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i was completely effaced and about 3cm dialated the entire last week with #2. and yes i believe a long cervix means it's rather thick (they measure when their are concerns of incompetent cervix/ptl etc) and a short/shortening means it's thinning out. i am sure someone can explain it better.

Sorry you are dealing with this! are you on bedrest? I hope baby stays put a while longer for you!

heatherliz2002's picture
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A long cervix means thick, or not effaced. They measure it in centimeters, usually as part of the anatomy scan to make sure it's long enough (at that point in the pregnancy it would be a problem if it's too short). If it's too short early on, they will usually put you on bed rest. But at this point in the pregnancy, it's totally normal for it to be short, or thinning out.

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Your cervex not only has to thin out (it's generally 3-5 inches thick) but also has to dialate. Effacement is the thinning out (imagine it going from 4 inches thick to 1/4 in. thick) and then has to open up to 10CM (4 inches). You want completely 100% effaced and 10CM to get that baby out lol!