Effacement refers to the thinning, stretching and shortening of the cervix, in order to prepare for child birth. The cervix is situated at the lower end of the uterus and remains tightly closed throughout the pregnancy. It begins to efface and open up, so that the baby is able to move through the birth canal.
The cervix is sealed at its opening end with the help of mucus plug. This is formed in the early pregnancy and helps in protecting the baby from infection causing bacteria and germs that may reach uterus.
In your advanced pregnancy stage, your baby moves down into the pelvis. This applies pressure on the cervix and it begins to loosen up and starts thinning. This is known as cervical effacement. It is measured in percentages. When your cervix softens and thins out entirely, you are said to be 100% effaced. This process may take several weeks to occur in some women and in others, may happen only during labor. Here are some ways to tell if your cervix is effaced or not.
Cervical Effacement Symptoms
When the baby drops down, you may feel pain and discomfort in your pelvis. This happens late in pregnancy, around 37 weeks gestation in most cases. The pain may be sharp at intervals or mild. Others may not experience any ache at all.
Loss of mucus plug
The pressure from the baby’s head makes the cervix to become loose. As it stretches, the mucus plug comes off as vaginal discharge. This may happen at one go or in small bits at different times. You may notice this or you may miss it completely. This is considered normal and is often a sign that labor is near.
Sometimes the stretching of the cervix may cause damage to the blood vessels surrounding it. This is seen as light vaginal spotting and is referred to as bloody show. Usually, bloody show occurs along with mucus plug discharge and sometimes alone. This is common and a hint of labor approaching.
Braxton Hicks contractions, referred to as false contractions occur mostly during second and third trimesters. These are not regular and do not increase in severity of pain. These contractions are known to aid the softening of cervix.
You need to know that these symptoms may not always mean your cervix is effaced. These are common to late pregnancy and may or may not be accompanied by cervix effacement.