How Can I Tell If I'm Dilating?

can-tell-m-dilating Credit: dm909/Moment/Getty Images

According to Babble, when a pregnant woman is dilating, the cervix opens; as it continues to open, the woman is able to penetrate the area rather easily with her fingers. The cervix is compared to soft, puckered lips. A woman can sit on a toilet and place one leg up to reach the cervix. While reaching into a dilated cervix, it's not uncommon to feel the baby's head.

Babble explains, while pregnant, the cervix is long and firm. It's positioned high in the vaginal cavity and far out of reach. As the pregnancy continues, the cervix becomes shorter and lowers in preparation for labor. At this point, the woman can reach the cervix.

Contractions cause the uterine muscles to tighten, which then causes the cervix to react by opening. A fully dilated cervix is 10 centimeters. It's common for a woman to be dilated 1 to 3 centimeters for several weeks without being in labor, according to Babble.

Once the amniotic sac bursts, also known as "water breaking," it's important to avoid placing anything inside the vagina. The womb is exposed and is no longer a sterile environment. Receiving an internal exam by a physician or performing a self-exam can increase the risk of bacteria in the area and causing an infection, Babble advises. Performing a self-examination doesn't provide any indication as to how much time remains before labor begins or how quickly it progresses.