is the shortening, or thinning, of the cervix
before or during early labour
. Prior to effacement, the cervix is like a long bottleneck, usually about four centimeters in length. Throughout pregnancy
, the cervix is tightly closed and protected by a plug of mucus
. When the cervix effaces, the mucus plug is loosened and passes out of the vagina
. The mucus may be tinged with blood
and the passage of the mucus plug is called bloody show
(or simply "show").
As effacement takes place, the cervix then shortens, or effaces, pulling up into the uterus and becoming part of the lower uterine wall. Effacement may be measured in percentages, from zero percent (not effaced at all) to 100 percent, which indicates a paper-thin cervix. Effacement is followed by cervical dilation.