How dilated am I?

You are in labour. You know that each contraction brings you closer to meeting your baby, but the thing weighing most heavily on every labouring mother’s mind is: how much closer?

There are a number of ways of figuring out how much longer you have without succumbing to an internal examination, some less obvious than others, but if you focus on staying in tune with your body, you will see them.

1. Sound

The way you talk and the noises you make change with each stage of labour. In early labour, you will be able to speak, in a normal voice, during each contraction and chat and laugh in between them. As labour becomes established, you will no longer be able to talk as each surge comes and you will start to ignore the people around you between surges, focusing your energy inwards.

As transition and birth draw closer, you seem to go to another level of awareness. Suddenly, the sounds start to change involuntarily – you may have been moaning, talking and expressing your discomfort, but now deep guttural noises may emerge. This means you are about to start pushing.

Also read: What will my labour really be like?

2. Smell

Usually towards the end of dilation, and just before birth, there is a special smell – like a mix of mown hay, semen and dampness. It can be very strong.

3. The wall

This is a moment where, just before transition, labouring mothers become amusingly irrational: “I want to go home now; I have had enough.”

Also read: How to keep your unborn baby safe?

You may have been coping brilliantly without pain relief and suddenly demand some. You may even want to have a sleep. Many midwives call this hitting the wall and it is a sure sign that the birth is imminent and pushing is about to begin.

4. Show 'n tell

Most of us know that the mucous plug (a sticky substance often streaked with pink, brown or bright blood) that is keeping the cervix sealed can come away in early labour, or even a few days before – this is called a show. What many people don’t know is that there is a second show at around eight centimetres dilation. This second show means that birth is near.

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