Medical interventions can speed up labor, but there are other ways to encourage dilation. Moving around, rocking on an exercise ball, using relaxation techniques, and laughing may help a person dilate.
Dilation is a term that describes the widening of the cervical opening. Dilation of the cervix is one sign that a pregnant woman is going into labor.
During the final stages of pregnancy, doctors perform cervical exams to track the progress of the pregnancy and the extent of dilation of the cervix.
In the first stage of labor, the cervix will dilate to 10 centimeters (cm) in width.
Dilation is typically gradual, but the cervix can widen rapidly over 1 or 2 days. A few different factors can influence how quickly dilation occurs.
In this article, learn how to dilate more quickly before and during labor.
The following methods can help in dilation without using medication:
Getting up and moving around may help speed dilation by increasing blood flow.
Walking around the room, doing simple movements in bed or chair, or even changing positions may encourage dilation.
This is because the weight of the baby applies pressure to the cervix.
People may also find swaying or dancing to calming music effective.
Use an exercise ball
A large inflatable exercise ball, called a birthing ball in this case, may also help.
Sitting on the ball and rocking back and forth or moving in circles can help keep the muscles in the pelvis loose and relaxed for delivery.
It is easy to become tense during the last stages of pregnancy, but learning to relax can have a range of benefits.
Stress and muscle tension and can delay labor by making it harder for the cervix to dilate. These issues can also keep the baby from descending.
Many women benefit from practicing breathing exercises or meditation before and during labor. Even dimming the lights can help.
Laughing can keep stress and fear at bay. Even momentary relief can relax the body and aid dilation.
Joking around, or watching funny movies or stand-up comedy may help to keep spirits up before and during labor.
Sexual stimulation can relax the body.
Also, a hormone called prostaglandin in semen can promote dilation.
While labor is a natural process, there are times when a doctor needs to intervene.
Medical intervention may be necessary if:
- a woman has an infection in the uterus
- the baby is more than 2 weeks overdue, and active labor has not begun
- the water has broken, but there are no contractions
- underlying medical conditions will complicate delivery for the mother or baby
A doctor may apply a medication that contains prostaglandin to soften the cervix and promote dilation.
A process called membrane stripping may help. It involves a doctor or midwife rubbing their fingers against the membranes of the amniotic sac to release prostaglandin into the uterus and help the cervix dilate.
Women interested in unmedicated or “natural” birth may avoid medical intervention until it is necessary.
There are three distinct stages:
This stage has three phases.
In the first phase, the cervix dilates to 3 cm. The baby drops lower into the pelvis, and this increases the levels of prostaglandin in the body, which stimulates dilation.
The mucus plug that has sealed the opening of the uterus during pregnancy will fall away.
Capillaries in the cervix can rupture during this stage and cause bloody discharge known as the bloody show. This is normal.
The next phase is active labor, when the cervix will dilate further. Some doctors mark the end of this phase when the width of the cervix reaches 7 cm. Others use contractions as a guideline.
The final step in this stage, called the transition phase, lasts until the cervix dilates to 10 cm.
The second stage of labor begins when the cervix dilates to 10 cm and ends with delivery. The length of time can vary from woman to woman, and a variety of factors influence it.
In this stage, the doctor will deliver the placenta and cut the umbilical cord.
In some situations, a doctor may use medical methods to encourage dilation.
However, there are a number of natural ways to promote dilation before and during labor. It is often a good idea to find ways to relax.