Cervix Ripens – the cervix starts to soften and becomes more flexible towards the end of pregnancy. This continues during pre-labour and is described as ‘ripening’. This means it is preparing to open and be drawn up into the lower segment of the uterus with stronger contractions. Some women are aware of strong sensations but many are unaware. This happens as the baby moves and puts pressure on the softer cervix. It can be sporadic and quite uncomfortable. It is ‘normal’.
Cervix thins and shortens – the cervix will begin to thin and shorten (effacement). The cervix is normally 3-5cms thick. It needs to be paper-thin before it can dilate past 3 cms. This can be measured by the Midwife with a vaginal examination. A thick cervix feels long and thick to touch. When the cervix is paper-thin or fully effaced, it has been mostly pulled up into the lower segment, allowing it then to dilate more than 3cms. The cervix needs to dilate to 10cms., i.e. often described by the midwife as ‘fully’, which means no more cervix can be felt on vaginal examination.