Motherhood is an exciting and often mystical time in a woman’s life. Furthermore, expectant mothers now have the option of natural childbirth or a caesarean section. In a pregnant woman, the cervix is usually closed with a mucus plug to prevent infection from reaching the baby or babies. When the woman approaches labor, the plug falls out and the cervix dilates to prepare for birth. Labor starts when the cervix is dilated to at least 4 cm; it progresses to active labor when the cervix is 10-cm dilated. If you are expecting, you can check yourself to see how you are coming along compared to the estimated delivery date. You can also follow these tips on how to check your cervix for dilation so that you don’t go to the hospital too early if you’re opting for natural childbirth.
Prepare for the self check-up
Cut or trim your fingernails as close to the skin as possible. If there is a chance of scratching yourself internally given the length of your nails, prepare a set of clean latex gloves. Have a jar of a water-based lubricant, such as KY jelly, on hand. Gloves and lubricant are optional, but these are highly recommended if you want the self-exam to be comfortable and safe. Wash and sanitize your hands thoroughly and rinse them well to avoid introducing bacteria or soap into your vagina. These can cause infection.
Choose a comfortable location and position
Most women choose the bathroom or shower for the check-up because the body is clean and a bit lubricated there. It’s also a convenient venue for the post-check-up washing up. Make sure that the floor is dry or stand on a rubber mat to avoid slipping.
Sit on the toilet seat. Keep one leg on the floor and raise the other one so that the foot is resting on the toilet seat. You can also stay standing and prop one foot up on the toilet seat or bathtub edge. Squat slightly, and, in this position, open the vaginal canal.
Perform the cervical check
Put on the gloves and lather one hand with some lubricant. Insert two well-lubricated fingers into the vaginal canal and go towards the back, near your butt and away from your stomach. Feel for the cervix. The cervix should feel like two lips puckered up to kiss. If a finger slips easily into the cervix, it has dilated. It will feel like sliding a finger into a mouth that’s about to kiss. The number of fingers that can slip easily inside the cervix approximately represents the number of centimetres of dilation. This means that when you can fit four fingers inside you are 4-cm dilated. At around this width, the cervix feels like a rubbery circle. Inside the cervix, you should be able to feel a latex-like sac. This is the bag of fluid that the baby is floating in. It is sometimes possible to feel the hard top of the baby’s head within the sac. If you can feel the head directly, then the bag of fluid has broken, and labor is ongoing.
There are other signs that indicate labor is near. They include a blood or mucous discharge, a purple line on the natal cleft or butt crack, the involuntary curling of one’s toes, and goose bumps on the butt and upper thighs. Sometimes the legs of a woman giving birth grow colder from ankle to knee as labor progresses. This is because blood is withdrawn from the extremities to focus on giving birth. The detection of these signs works hand-in-hand with the above tips on how to check your cervix for dilation.