Checking Your Cervix for Dilation: A Guide 14

Your cervix is the tunnel like passageway that leads from your vaginal canal to your uterus. Before pregnancy this canal opens first during ovulation to allow sperm into the reproductive track, and again if pregnancy is not achieved to allow the lining of the uterus to pass during menstruation. The cervix also produces cervical mucus to prevent infection, help balance vaginal pH, and aid in a safe union of sperm with egg. The cervix rocks.

checking your cervix for dilation

If you do become pregnant, your cervix forms a mucus plug to prevent infection from reaching your baby or babies inside. During the final weeks of your pregnancy, this mucus plug may begin to loosen slowly or fall out all at once as a result of cervical dilation. While the loss of a mucus plug does indicate cervix dilation, it does not necessarily mean labor is imminent. Some women lose their mucous plugs weeks before their labor, others hours before. Increased gooey, snot-like discharge which may or may not be mixed with blood is a sound, albeit yucky, indication of dilation.

Dilation, by the way, is the process in which your cervix thins and opens to allow your baby to be born. It’s time to push when your cervix has reached 10 cm dilated and is 100-percent effaced or thinned. Many women begin to dilate before their labor by some time, even weeks. Labor is not considered “begun” until the cervix is dilated to at least 4 cm.

Regardless, most prenatal care providers will begin checking your cervix for dilation at about 36 weeks to try to get a slightly less-rough estimate of delivery date than a due date offers. If you wish to check your cervix yourself, perhaps in between appointments to chart your progress or to avoid going to the hospital too early, this guide on how to check your cervix for dilation should be of help.

You may also want to check your cervical position while trying to conceive to help pinpoint ovulation. For those who stumbled on this page trying to do just that, your cervix rises, softens and opens during ovulation and is lower, firmer and closed during infertile times. You can check your cervix for ovulation by following this guide as well. More information on pinpointing ovulation can be found here.

Locating your cervix:

The first step in checking your cervix for dilation is to understand where your cervix is.

If you feel to the very back of your vagina, (comfortable positions will be covered in the next step) and you are early in pregnancy or not pregnant and have never had a baby before, you will feel a small dimple similar to the top of your nose. This is your cervix. If you have had a baby before, your cervix may feel closer to a chin or puckered lips as pregnancy forever changes it. Your cervix may also feel this way if you are later in pregnancy and it’s begun to dilate or you aren’t pregnant and currently fertile.

Also, note that your cervix does move throughout the day, so if you’re checking for ovulation, check at the same time every day. During pregnancy most women find their cervix is high and posterior or pointing away from the birth canal until later in pregnancy as it moves forward, or anterior, pointing into the birth canal and sometimes becomes lower. Some feel the movement of the cervix from posterior to anterior is an indication of labor soon to come. However, while it is true that as labor begins your cervix will usually be in anterior position, your cervix can move at any time before labor begins.

Preparing to Check Your Cervix:

First, wash your hands thoroughly to avoid introducing bacteria which could lead to infection. If your nails have any length you may want to wear latex gloves to reduce the chance of scratching yourself internally. Trimmer nails are more ideal.

You’ll want a comfortable, warm, and private location where you can either lie down or squat. Some women suggest the shower may be the ideal location as you are already clean and undressed.

If you like, while checking for dilation you can do a visual check as well. Visual checks are tricky to pull off and don’t really offer much, but if it’s something you want to do, you will also need a speculum (usually purchasable from pharmacies or online), a flash light, and a mirror. This is not necessary as visual checks are more to check for disease or infection. If you’re trying to determine if you’re pregnant by checking your cervix, in about 50 percent of pregnant women the cervix is purple or blue in color from increased blood flow.

To perform a visual check follow the instructions here.

What is and isn’t normal is also covered. As a visual check doesn’t do anything extra in regards to knowing how dilated your cervix is, in-depth instructions will not be covered  in this guide.

To check your cervix for dilation:

Find a position that is comfortable for you. If you’re doing a dilation and visual check choose a location where you can prop yourself slightly using pillows or bedding and lie on your back. Those doing a simple dilation check will likely find it easier to place one foot on a toilet or shower edge and squat slightly. You can even find instructions for this method on tampon instruction booklets as it opens the vaginal canal and makes it easily accessible. If you are just checking for ovulation, you may be able to check your cervix just sitting on the toilet, but while pregnant you may find your cervix is too high to reach this way.

Anyway, to perform the cervical check, insert two fingers into your vaginal canal and find your cervix. If you feel an opening in the cervix, this means dilation has occurred. Every finger that can be fit inside is about one cm dilation. For example, if you can fit two fingers inside even stretching a bit, you are around 2 cm dilated. Keep in mind that women who have already had a vaginal delivery almost always have a slight opening. If your cervix is very open, you may feel a latex like sack, this is your bag of waters which your baby sits within. You might even feel the hard top of your baby’s head within this sack. If you only feel the baby’s head, this means your bag of waters has ruptured, seek medical attention immediately.

It’s best to avoid frequent cervix checks during pregnancy as it may irritate the cervix and, of course, increases the risk of infection, but if you just have to know, I hope this guide has helped.

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14 thoughts on “Checking Your Cervix for Dilation: A Guide

  • Tay

    Hello, I have a question. I’m currently trying to conceive and today Ive noticed quite a bit of ewcm. so my question is when seeing that, is your egg being released that same day or will it happen days later and if so how many days?

    • unwirklich admin

      Usually it’s within 24 hours of EWCM. EWCM alters vaginal pH so that’s it’s more ideal for sperm, so anytime you see it, you can consider yourself fertile. Sperm will survive up to 5 days. :)

      • Tay

        Thank you for your response, so today for instance i noticed what I believe is ovulation pain, so does that mean that my egg has been released?

        • unwirklich admin

          Probably yes, some women do get some tinges around ovulation, others feel it just the day of, and still others don’t feel anything at all. It would be one sided.

  • Tara Camacho

    Im 29 weeks pregnant checking my own cervix and I can put two in and stretch it. My fingers are so short that I cant really try to see how deep they go into the stretching cervix or see if more can fit. So does that mean im actually dilated to something?? My baby is breach also. Am I doing this right??

    • unwirklich admin

      At 29 weeks 2 cm would be pretty dilated (assuming this is your first baby), but it’s also possible you aren’t quite reaching your cervix. If this is not your first pregnancy, 2 cm would be pretty normal as the cervix never fully closes after a pregnancy. If it helps it sounds like you’re doing it right. You could confirm with your care provider.

      • Tara Camacho

        This is my 3rd not counting miscarriages. And my 2nd baby came 2 weeks early. I can put two in and it feel like maybe another can fit I just have short fingers so I cant really put another in but with the two I can and try to stretch it to see if could do another or not it does stretch like maybe another can fit.

        • unwirklich admin

          Those with prior pregnancies always have some dilation, on the external OS (side of the cervix on the vaginal side), the inner should still be closed at this point though. Sadly, with short fingers you probably won’t be able to reach. If you are concerned you’re dilating early, you should see your care provider.

      • Jadie walters

        Hi, I’m 35 weeks and one day pregnant. I can’t reach my cervix at all, I imagine it’s just due to my stubby fingers. Is it possible my fingers are just to short and my cervix is just too high?

        • Life with Gremlins admin

          It could be the short fingers, yes, or have you ever had, this sounds super weird, but someone comment on the shape of your cervix? I was told mine is L-shaped, in that it curves back at the end. Always made my care provider who also had short fingers have a hell of a time reaching it to check dilation. Checking yourself, it might help to place a pillow under yourself to change the angle of your pelvis (my midwife always had me place my fists balled right under my tail bone) or if you haven’t tried, some ladies have more luck in a sitting position, such as on the toilet (with clean hands of course).

  • Anonymous

    I’m an OB nurse and when we check the cervix its a sterile procedure and we typically minimize the number of times we check the cervix so we don’t introduce bacteria. I definitely would not check my own cervix after my water broke.

    • unwirklich admin

      I’m not sure why someone would be checking after their water had broken, at that point obviously labor should begin soon, and they’d hopefully be with a nurse like you at that point. :)

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Lots of ladies that have had children before are always a little open, how far can really vary, if you had checked it before and it wasn’t open though, sounds like you’re starting to prepare for labor :) At 37 weeks that would be normal.