What is effacement?

I am nearing the end of my pregnancy. Several of my friends, who are also pregnant, are talking about being effaced already. What does this mean?

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

A thinning cervix (effacement) indicates that the lower uterine segment is preparing for birth. It stretches out and facilitates the dilatation process.

Cervical effacement, although it is a very subjective assessment, can be determined by your provider during an internal examination. It is usually measured in percentages or fractions, such as 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent or completely effaced (tissue paper thin) at 100 percent.

Because a thin cervix dilates easier, it is best to enter labor with effacement already completed or nearly so. Primigravidas (first time mothers) usually start this process during the last month. The practice contractions she has been experiencing do this. Much of early labor is spent effacing before the active dilatation of the cervix begins in earnest.

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