Today's topic: the wonderful world of cervical dilation*
This is a sexual education class that will cover many mature topics. If you have not turned in your permission slip signed by a parent or guardian, you may not participate in today's discussion. Please leave immediately. You are free to explore any other blog until lunch when you may rejoin your fellow students in the cafeteria.
Now for the rest of you - let's start talking about the cervix!
Madam Cervix lives in the lower, narrow portion of the Uterine Dormitory (i.e. "The U") just past where Miss Vagina hangs out. Madam Cervix is a tough broad that acts like a bit of gatekeeper to The U. Most days of the month she does her best to keep any undesirables (namely the boys from Sperm State) from gaining access to the unsuspecting girls that take up residence in The U. Occasionally though, she lets down her guard (usually after a few glasses of red wine -- she's a bit of a lush) and some unsavory gentlemen sneak past her. Often times, this leads to a sudden increase in church attendance, an uncomfortable conversation with someone's father and/or a wedding involving a smoothbore gun for firing small shot at short range.
Now let's get a little more technical about cervical dilation.
In the later stages of pregnancy, the cervix may already have opened up to 1-3 cm (or more in rarer circumstances), but during labor, repeated uterine contractions lead to further widening of the cervix to about 6 centimeters. From that point, pressure from the presenting part (head in vertex births or bottom in breech births), along with uterine contractions, will dilate the cervix to 10 centimeters, which is "complete." Cervical dilation is accompanied by effacement, the thinning of the cervix.
General guidelines for cervical dilation:
*Latent phase: 0-3 centimeters
*Active Labor: 4-7 centimeters
*Transition: 8-10 centimeters
*Complete: 10 centimeters - Delivery of the infant takes place shortly after this stage is reached (although the mother does not always push right away).
During pregnancy, the os (opening) of the cervix is blocked by a thick plug of mucus to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus. During dilation, this plug is loosened. It may come out as one piece, or as thick mucus discharge from the vagina. When this occurs, it is an indication that the cervix is beginning to dilate, although not all women will notice this mucus plug being released.
Bloody show is another indication that the cervix is dilating. Bloody show usually comes along with the mucus plug, and may continue throughout labor, making the mucus tinged pink, red or brown.
The pain experienced during dilation is similar to that of menstruation (although markedly more intense). Most of the pain during labor is caused by the uterus contracting to dilate the cervix.
Got all that? The cervix is going to open up and thin out so this baby can be born. In other words, it's like hand-tossed pizza dough with a hole in the middle of it. As it keeps getting tossed in the air, the dough is going to thin out and the hole is going to get bigger and bigger, until, Mama Mia! Eetsa baby!
So where does Julie stand right now? One centimeter at last Thursday's doctor visit. Lots of painful contractions and cramping the last couple of days. No sign of any bloody mucus plugs.
*Cervical dilation information courtesy of Wikipedia and my wife's thoroughly familiar doctor. Bad pizza dough analogy -- all me.