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Decoding the basic language of labor….


We all know basically how labor works…Kinda…sorta. — your cervix opens up, often your amniotic sac will rupture, and the uterus contracts to push baby through the vaginal canal.

However, there’s a lot of phrases and technical terms that get used that can be confusing.

If a doctor does a vaginal exam and says, "You’re about 80% effaced, 7 centimeters

dilated and at a -1 station,"

do you know what all of that means?


If not, he’s basically talking gibberish. So, I’m gonna help you decode a couple different terms you may hear while you’re in labor, so you understand what’s going on and what it means for you.

***{{Remember to Join us in our Mini Lamaze class…or the Hospital tour, where  you will learn even more about this amazing work of labor!   See class schedule Tab above}}***


Dilation and Effacement:

As you know, when you’re pregnant, your cervix closes up and spreads out and down or gets "longer" (about 1-2" long). As you get closer and closer to your due date, the cervix has to get out of the way, so it begins to pull back up, get "thinner", and eventually, starts to open as well.

Effacement is the act of it pulling up and getting thin which is measured in percentages…look below.

Now, dilation is your cervix actually opening, measured in centimeters. 0 is closed, whereas 10 is the largest your cervix opens. Some people call this "ripening."

This process can actually begin relatively early on — it’s not unheard of for women at 32-34 weeks to be a few centimeters dilated and partially effaced already. As long as there are no signs of premature labor, this isn’t a big concern and many women go on to full term despite early cervical changes.


This is in reference to a stage of labor, where your cervix is dilating between 8-10 centimeters. This is often the very active part of labor, and sometimes hardest. Many women refer to this as the period of "self-doubt". Some midwives say they know someone has hit transition when their client is saying, "I can’t do this!"
However, the important thing to remember is once you hit this point, you’re already almost done!


Most women understand this one, but it’s where the baby’s head is now starting to come out, visible at the end of the vagina. This stretching of the labial tissue sometimes come be intense and the sensation has earned the name "The Ring of Fire"… but it means you’re almost done!


You may hear someone say your baby is at a certain "station." This refers to where your baby’s head is positioned in your pelvis, or more specifically, in relation to your ischial spines. Negative numbers are above this point, whereare positve numbers are below. The further down your baby is, the closer they are to being in your arms! But don’t

worry — babies can drop down quite quickly. Don’t be discouraged if your baby isn’t low early on.

Bottom line…every cell in your body knows how to do this.


And you don’t really need to know all the technical terms…But for some it can really help in that important communication between you and your doctor/midwife.


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