Cervical dilation is a natural process or a medically induced one, which is the widening of the mouth of the uterus to facilitate a natural childbirth or in the case of a miscarriage, an induced abortion, or other gynecological surgery.
Cervical dilation is usually accompanied by the thinning or effacement of the cervix. Generally speaking the extent of cervical dilation is up to 3 centimeters during the later stages of pregnancy or latent stage. Active labor will usually dilate it to about 4 to 7 centimeters and at the transition stage the dilation could be anything between 8 and 10 centimeters.
The usual indications of a woman’s cervix dilation would be when the plug of thick mucus which shields the uterus from infection or bacteria is dislodged.
It may be dislodged and may fall out as a piece or it may manifest itself a thick mucus discharge from the vagina. In some cases, the dislodging of this mucus plug may not be able to discern by the woman; she may not notice it.
Another sign of the cervix dilating is a bloody discharge, which is usually accompanied by the mucous plug. This bloody discharge is not colored red; it is not usually fresh blood but rather it is of a darker brown or lighter pink hue. When there is a fresh red blood discharge, this is usually the sign of a complication such as placenta previa or abruption.
The other main indication or symptom of cervical dilation is the pain that usually accompanies it. This pain is rather like severe period cramps; which is also the contraction of the uterus.
Cervical dilation is a natural process and upon a woman reaching full term, the cervix will start to dilate by virtue of the body producing the prostaglandin hormone which is responsible for the dilation or ripening of the cervix as it is also known.
Sometimes, the dilation of the cervix does not begin on its own and a drip to induce dilation or application of the hormone to the cervix directly may be done.
There are ways to dilate a cervix mechanically as well. A balloon catheter is one such device that may be used which expands when it is placed within the cervix. There are other materials also used that may expand in the presence of moisture, such as laminaria etc. for mechanical dilation.