The words effacement, being effaced and effacing are terms that you will hear often as you approach your last trimester. These terms are used to describe the process that the cervix prepares itself for delivery and it is measured by percentage. If you are told that you are 50% effaced, this means that you are half way from complete effacement. 100% effacement or complete effacement tells you that your cervix is quite thin and you are about to get into labor.

What Does Effacement Mean?

Cervical effacement is the ripened or thinned stage of the cervix. Normally, the cervix of a woman who isn’t pregnant is thick and long. A normal cervix will measure between 3 to 5 centimeters in length. However, when you are pregnant and near the end of your pregnancy, the cervix will begin thinning out and becoming shorter. This process is what is referred to as effacement. The cervix naturally starts to become shorter and it begins to pull up to a point where it seems to disappear, becoming a part of the lower uterus.

As the expectant mother’s due date approaches, the baby’s head will drop down causing the uterus to contract. This contraction combined with the effacement going on and dilation will lead to cramping. These cramp pains and contraction may feel like active labor and this is actually described as false labor. It is also called Braxton Hicks contraction and these are merely signs of the labor process. This process will take a few weeks before the cervix is effaced fully. In first time pregnancies, the cervix can become effaced even before it is dilated but in subsequent pregnancies, dilation will occur before effacement.

In the last weeks of pregnancy, your doctor will examine your cervix to identify any changes that are occurring in preparation for birth. The cervical effacement will be measured to identify how ready the body is for delivery. 0% effacement would mean that your cervix has had no changes, while 50% effacement would mean that your cervix is half its ordinary thickness. When you are 100% effaced, your cervix is thinned out completely leaving only the uterus opening for delivery. At this stage, you will be going into labor in no time.

What does effacement mean? You may watch the vide below for some explanation:

How to Know If and When I Am Effaced

As mentioned above, first time pregnancies become effaced before the cervix is dilated. However, the reverse occurs for subsequent pregnancies. Towards the end of the pregnancy, your effacement progress will be checked by your doctor through routine prenatal visits and the doctor may have to take an internal examination to identify the extent of dilation. Based on the results, your doctor should be able to guess when you will deliver. However, this doesn’t mean that you should race to the delivery room because the prediction is as good as a guess meaning it may be much sooner that your actual due date. Chances that your doctors educated guess is accurate are quite rare and hundreds of women give birth weeks after the guess, so don’t be impatient.

The cervix will continue to dilate even when on labor and full dilation will occur towards the end of the transitional phase when dilation will be at 10 centimeters. There are three labor phases and the third stage is when the cervix completely opens up meaning your body is ready for delivery.

How to Efface the Cervix Naturally

The American Pregnancy Association makes it clear that complete effacement occurs when the baby is engaged to the mother’s pelvis. When 100% effaced, the cervix will soon start to push outward. Though this occurs naturally, effacement can also be induced medically when labor appears to have stalled using the methods below.



Evening primrose oil

Evening primrose oil is recommended by a lot of midwives as a herbal treatment. The oil acts as prostaglandin which helps ripen the cervix. These oil capsules can be taken orally or rubbed on the cervix in the final weeks of pregnancies. These capsules can also be placed inside the woman’s vagina at bedtime. Evening primrose oil is not recommended for women who have had vaginal infections, placenta previa and other pregnancy complications.


Sex in the last trimester can boost dilation in the cervix. Sperms have prostaglandins which can help thin out the cervix. However, this dilation encouragement method should not be practiced by women who have already lost their mucus plug. The mucus plug protects the cervix from infections caused by harmful bacteria which could affect the baby.

Keep in a good position

The weight of the baby also could encourage dilation. Dilation will occur naturally when the baby drops down in preparation for birth. There are positions that also could encourage dilation and these include sitting on an exercise ball or sitting with your legs spread wide apart. Walking also could encourage dilation. Another technique you can use is getting on your hands and knees as this shifts the baby’s weight forward. In a nut shell, all positions that include opening up the pelvis or shifting the weight of the baby forward should help encourage dilation.

 What Happens After Effacement?

Labor progression is described by the stretching and opening of the cervix. Throughout your pregnancy, your cervix will remain as normal before starting to thin out as labor nears. The cervix is estimated to dilate by a centimeter during each hour of labor. However, this should not be generalized because different women will dilate differently. A dilation of 0-4 centimeters is regarded to as early labor and this will progress as the woman nears child birth. It is rare for a woman to be dilated by up to 2 centimeter several weeks to giving birth. When dilation measures between 4 and 7 centimeters, the woman is on active labor. At 7 to 10 centimeters, the woman is at the transition stage which is the final stage of labor. When the cervix is at 10 centimeters, this is considered full dilation and the woman is ready to give birth. 10 centimeters is about the size of the head of the newborn child.