What is Cervical Ripening?

Cervical ripening…yes this exists.  While many women go into spontaneous labour, some require some help to stimulate it.  Due to health reasons such as, a decrease in fetal weight gain, maternal hypertension or diabetes, or the Mama is postdates and medical professionals do not feel comfortable waiting for labour to start, an induction is necessary.  The goal of an induction is to achieve a normal labour pattern and have an uncomplicated vaginal birth.

Cervical ripening is one of the first steps.  In order for other induction methods to work effectively, your cervix needs to be “ripe”.  Yes, a “ripe cervix” is ready for labour.

What is A Cervix Again?

The cervix, is located at the lower end of your uterus.  It connects the uterus/womb to the vagina and exit point for your baby.  During pregnancy, the cervix is thick and closed. This helps to keep your baby in the uterus, safe to grow and develop.  As the end of your 3rd trimester nears, your cervix slowly begins to soften, thin out or RIPEN.  Then when labour is initiated, the cervix will start to thin (efface) and dilate, allowing your baby to enter the birth canal and essentially their new world.

In certain circumstances, when a woman’s cervix is not ripe and medical professionals are not prepared to wait any longer for this to occur spontaneously, they use means to ripen the cervix and hopefully get labour started.

How do they Ripen a Cervix?

Option 1

To ripen a cervix, a prostaglandin gel or cervidil slow release packet is inserted into your vagina, and left near your cervix.  The cervidil, which resembles a tampon, can then be removed if contractions start or are too strong. They can usually be left in for 24 hrs, and allow the woman to be sent home with it in, depending on the situation.  It is not uncommon for 2 cervidils to be required in order for the cervix to ripen, so that other induction methods can then be utilized.

Option 2

A catheter or small sterile tube with a balloon at one end is sometimes used.  It is inserted into your cervix during a vaginal exam. The balloon is inflated with sterile water, applying pressure to your cervical opening.  This can help to both ripen and dilate your cervix. If labour does not start, your cervix should at least ripen, allowing other induction methods to now be utilized.

Once your cervix is ripe, it should feel like an earlobe.  It will be soft, low, forward in the vagina and starting to dilate (open up).  If you do not go into spontaneous labour after your cervix is ripened then further induction methods can now be utilized.  This could be a prostaglandin vaginal gel, an artificial rupture of membranes (breaking your water) or oxytocin induction.


Good luck Mama’s.  Please realize that all this great information is covered in our Private or Group Prenatal Classes so don’t hesitate to contact your local Mama Coach Today!!

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