Can I Check Myself for Dilation During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy can be both an exciting and anxious time. It is important to be aware of any changes in your body while pregnant, as they may be signs of dilation – an early sign of labor. Unfortunately, it is not possible to accurately measure dilation by self-examination; however, you can take steps to determine if you are dilation and if so, the severity.
What is Dilation?
During pregnancy, the cervix softens and thins in preparation for delivery. This process is called effacement and dilation. Dilation is considered ‘complete’ when the cervix has opened to a 10-cm diameter.
Why Check for Dilation?
Dilation is a sign that the body is beginning to prepare for labor and delivery. Knowing whether your cervix is dilating and the degree of dilation can help you and your health care provider to plan for the delivery and determine if medical intervention may be needed.
How to Check for Dilation?
While it is not possible to accurately measure your own dilation due to the location of the cervix and the risk of infection, there are a few ways to check on your body’s progress:
- Monitoring Braxton Hicks contractions: Braxton Hicks contractions are painless uterine tightenings that can happen throughout pregnancy but become more common in the final weeks. While not always indicative of dilation, frequent and/or particularly intense contractions may be a sign that your body is preparing for labor.
- Performing a self-examination: You can perform a self-examination by running your fingertips over the lower part of your abdomen above the pubic bone. A baby’s head in the birth canal will usually cause the lower part of your abdomen to feel firm.
- Visiting your healthcare provider: Your healthcare provider will be able to measure your pregnancy accurately, including the degree of dilation, using a pelvic exam.
The Bottom Line
It is not possible to measure your own dilation at home; however, there are a few signs to help you determine the progress of labor. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about any changes in your body and activities – such as frequent or intense contractions – that may be a sign of labor.
What happens if I find myself dilated during pregnancy?
If your doctor finds that you are dilated during pregnancy, this usually indicates that labor is about to begin. Your doctor may recommend that you go to the hospital for further monitoring to make sure that labor is not imminent, and will often suggest that you take steps to help delay labor, such as bedrest or hydration. The doctor may also monitor your baby’s heart rate and perform a physical exam to check for any signs that labor might be imminent. If you do go into labor, it may be necessary to deliver the baby via C-section, depending on your individual circumstances.
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