What Does Effaced Mean?

QUESTION

Dear Midwife,
What exactly does effaced mean? I am 37 weeks, dilated to a 3 and 50% effaced. I understand the 3 but have no idea what effaced means. Can you explain in layman's terms?

Thank you,
Tara

ANSWER

As the uterus is pulled up by the muscle at the top of the uterus, the cervix (the neck of the uterus) is shortened (effaced) and opened (dilated). Eventually, the cervix is totally thinned out and when the muscle keeps pulling on it, it just opens more and faster (since it doesn't have to efface any more). Ask your caregiver to show you a picture or show you with a model, it's kinda hard to describe in words.

-- Cynthia, CNM

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Cynthia Flynn

Cynthia Flynn, CNM. PhD, is the General Director of the Family Health and Birth Center which provides prenatal, birth, postnatal, gynecological and primary health care to underserved women and their families in Washington, D.C. Recently Cynthia served as Associate Professor of Nursing at Seattle University. There she not only taught, but remained in full scope clinical midwifery practice at Valley Medical Center where she cared for pregnant and birthing women, and practices well-woman gynecology, family planning, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Cynthia founded Columbia Women's Clinic and Birth Center, where she took care of pregnant women and infants up to two weeks of age and attended both birth center and hospital births. Before Cynthia earned her CNM, she worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and postpartum and is a certified Doula and Doula trainer.