How to Dilate the Cervix

Two Methods:Undergoing Chemical or Mechanical DilationSpeeding Up Early Labor Without Medical Intervention

Cervical dilation occurs during active labor, making room for the baby to travel through the birth canal. The cervix dilates naturally when the body is ready to give birth, but when it's necessary to move things along more quickly, dilation may be stimulated using medications or mechanical techniques. Cervical dilation is best left in the hands of your doctor or midwife, who can ensure that the dilation is done safely and effectively, no matter what the reason might be. Read on to learn more about how the cervix is dilated.

Method 1
Undergoing Chemical or Mechanical Dilation

  1. Image titled Dilate the Cervix Step 1
    Understand when the cervix would need to be dilated. Since the dilation of the cervix happens when labor moves from "early" to "active," intervening in the process instead of letting it occur naturally is essentially the same as inducing labor. There are a number of reasons why a doctor or midwife might determine this to be the best course of action:
    • If you're two weeks past your due date with no signs of early labor.[1]
    • If your water has broken but no contractions have occurred.
    • If you have an infection in the later stages of pregnancy.
    • If there's a problem with your placenta.
    • If you have a medical condition that might pose a risk if you wait too long to have the baby.
    • If you're undergoing a dilation and curettage procedure.
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    Know the risks of inducing labor. Inducing labor should not be done as a matter of convenience, since it can pose risks to both the mother and the baby. Inducing labor should not be done lightly - be sure you understand exactly what your body will experience before you agree to taking medication. Inducing labor increases the risk of these complications:
    • Having a C-section.[2]
    • Premature birth.
    • Lowering the baby's heart rate and oxygen intake.
    • Contracting infection.
    • Uterine rupture.
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    Talk to your doctor about medication used to dilate the cervix. The most common medication used for this purpose is synthetic prostaglandin. Dinoprostone and misoprostol are two synthetic prostaglandins that may be used. Both of these medications are administered vaginally or orally.
    • These medications have side effects that may impact the health of the baby. Be sure to talk with your doctor about the risks involved before taking medication.
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    Find out if a mechanical dilator will be used. Sometimes doctors use implements that will dilate the cervix mechanically, rather than chemically. Either a balloon-tipped catheter or a type of seaweed called laminaria is inserted inside the cervical opening.
    • Once the balloon-tipped catheter is inserted, saline is injected into the balloon, causing it to expand and dilate the cervix.
    • Laminaria is a type of seaweed native to Japan that forms a thick, sticky gel when wet. The dried stems of the seaweed are formed into "tents" that will swell up gradually. A layer of this substance is placed just inside the cervix, around the neck of the uterus to promote cervical dilation. Although laminaria has been used both prior to dilation and curettage and to stimulate labor, the safety of its use during pregnancy has not been proven at this time.

Method 2
Speeding Up Early Labor Without Medical Intervention

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    Have sex with your partner. Sex starts a prostaglandin release in the body that may result in cervical stimulation and dilation. Before having in sex at this point in your pregnancy, consult with your physician. In most cases, sex at this stage of pregnancy is absolutely safe as long as your water has not broken. Although studies to support the connection between sex and cervical dilation are not entirely conclusive, many doctors continue to recommend this method to patients who are becoming impatient with their pregnant status.
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    Stimulate your nipples. Nipple stimulation releases a hormone called oxytocin, which causes labor to begin.[3] Rub your nipples or have your partner do so for you.
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    Watch for signs of cervical dilation if you are near the end of your pregnancy. This indicates that you are in labor, and it's time to talk with your doctor or midwife. As the baby's head begins to press down on the opening of the uterus, the cervix will start to thin out and open. Your doctor can do a simple examination to determine whether dilation and effacement of the cervix has begun, indicating you may be in the very early stages of childbirth.


  • Do not ingest herbs or supplements intended to dilate the cervix unless they have been approved for use by your doctor or midwife.

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Categories: Women’s Health