How To Check Dilation At Home And Is It Safe To Do It Yourself

how to check dilation at home

Cervical dilation is part of the first stage of early labor. 

Cervix dilation can be checked in a doctor’s office by your doctor or at home. 

This article will discuss how to check dilation at home safely.

Many women feel better knowing they can check their cervix once they have reached the last few weeks of pregnancy to give them an idea of how soon they can expect to deliver or be in active labor.

It’s great information to have if you have dealt with anxiety regarding your delivery or if you have been checked in your doctor’s office and were told that you were starting to dilate.

In the last month or so of your pregnancy, you will have appointments every week until you deliver. While this seems frequent, one week at the end of pregnancy can feel like it crawls by at an incredibly slow pace.

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Reasons pregnant women check their cervix dilation

The cervix dilates as the baby’s head descends into the birth canal in the last few weeks of pregnancy. 

Think of your uterus as a latex balloon filled with air; the part tied at the end would be the cervix. As a pregnant woman nears her due date, that tied end starts to widen and open up to allow the baby to pass through the birth canal and exit the body through the vaginal canal.

A dilated cervix is necessary for a vaginal delivery. Checking the cervix for dilation at home can provide women with several benefits. 

They are as follows:

1. Taking control as labor progresses

Cervix dilation is the beginning of the labor process. When a pregnant woman can check the cervix for dilation at home, it gives her a sense of control over herself and her body. 

Having to wait or ask for cervical exams on a weekly or biweekly basis at the doctor’s office puts the control in someone else’s hands, and some women feel that knowing how to check the cervix for dilation on their cervix gives them a certain amount of calmness and security.

2. Immediate information

When the cervix opens, it indicates that your baby’s delivery is not far off. 

While it can be weeks after the process starts that active labor begins, being able to assess dilation at home rather than waiting for a vaginal exam in a doctor’s office can give women immediate information.

How to check dilation at home

The most considerable risk in checking the cervix for dilation is infection and injury to the vaginal canal. Knowing how many centimeters dilated you are is excellent information, but you should never do it recklessly.

How to check your cervix for dilation

Preparation in checking your own dilation

When you decide to check your cervical dilation, you must start by taking steps to prevent infection and injury. These steps are as follows:

1. Clean your hands

You’ll be checking your cervix with your fingers or your partner’s help, so you need to start with sanitized and clean hands. It’s also best to wait until after you have lost your mucous plug, which the cervix forms in earlier stages of pregnancy, to avoid introducing bacteria to the cervix and uterus.

You should also ensure that your fingernails are cut short to prevent any internal cuts that can lead to severe infection.

2. Ask a professional for advice

Make sure you are not high-risk and that your baby is healthy first. 

If you have any infection or illness, or if your pregnancy has had complications such as placenta previa, your doctor may advise against you checking for dilation on your own.

If you are given the green light to proceed, listen to any advice or suggestions a healthcare professional offers before proceeding.

3. Find the most comfortable position possible

Checking how many centimeters you are dilated can be quite an acrobatic feat. 

You have to be able to get around your baby bump and to your vagina to check your cervix. 

Most women find it easiest to squat or to sit back with at least one leg elevated while one foot is on the floor or the legs spread. Practice getting into a safe position before trying your at-home pelvic exam.

how to check dilation at home

Steps to check your cervix dilation

Once you have cleaned your hands, found the right position, and talked to your doctor, you’re ready to check for dilation.

1. Use two fingers

Best done using the index and middle finger; slowly insert two fingers into your vagina. This may prove to be uncomfortable, and if you experience any pain or are uncomfortable with the process, stop. 

There is no medical need for you to check your cervix, and it will be acceptable to wait for a professional doctor to check your cervix dilation instead.

2. Push through to the cervix

Your cervix is located deep inside your vaginal canal. You have to insert your fingers deeply to perform a cervical check. Try not to poke too deeply, and ensure that your fingernails are trimmed.

Full dilation will allow you to feel the amniotic sac, which will feel a lot like a water balloon. 

If you are fully dilated ten centimeters, you may be able to feel the baby’s head. Be sure you don’t poke at the amniotic sac or make quick jabbing motions.

The cervix may feel like puckered lips if it is closed or if you have given birth. 

To keep your baby safe, always start with just one fingertip, and work your way up.

How to tell how many centimeters you are dilated

If you can pass one finger through the cervix, you can consider yourself one centimeter dilated. If you can put two fingers through the opening of your cervix, you are two centimeters dilated.

If more fingers fit through your cervix easily, it’s a good indication that you are well on your way to fully dilated.

Contact your doctor for anything over three centimeters

As parents-to-be, you should stop a self-exam and contact a doctor if you suspect you are three centimeters or more dilated. 

This means that you are likely in active labor and should be checked for other signs of labor. 

Your healthcare provider should be alerted to any issues you may encounter during or after checking yourself.

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Clear signs you’re dilating

If you would rather not delve into the realm of self-administered cervical checks, there are additional signs to look out for that will tell you that your labor is imminent and that you are dilating.

1. Bloody show

This is the loss of the mucous plug, which can result in some light vaginal bleeding and a thick discharge. 

This means your cervix has thinned and opened enough for this thick plug to dislodge and fall out. This is most often seen after going to the bathroom and then wiping.

2. The purple line

This purple line test occurs from the top of the natal cleft, or butt crack, and extends upwards. The further up the line reaches, the closer to labor you are. 

This purple color in the form of a straight line shows in the last trimester and only in some women.

3. Contractions begin

Women tend to know their own bodies, and once labor begins in earnest, you can often tell that dilation has occurred due to pain and the beginning of contractions.

True contractions are so painful that you shouldn’t be able to talk through them, although very loud noises and intense pain often accompany them.

At ten centimeters, you are ready to push, and your baby will make its grand entrance! The time it takes to reach this point of progression takes hours for some, days for others, and weeks for many. 

Patience is key where cervix dilation is concerned.

How to tell if birth is imminent

Your healthcare provider is the most reliable source of information regarding how close to giving birth you are. 

However, suppose you need the added security and knowledge regarding how close you are to meeting your baby. A cervical dilation check can be performed safely if you take the necessary precautions, go slowly, and have some patience.

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