Effacement is a term used in the pregnancy and birthing industry to describe the thinning and stretching of the cervix during pregnancy. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Effacement occurs when the cervix stretches and thins out in preparation for labor and delivery. This process begins in early labor and can take several hours or days.
The causes of effacement are not fully understood, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including the release of hormones during pregnancy, the weight of the baby pressing down on the cervix, and Braxton-Hicks contractions (false labor).
Risk Factors and Complications
Risk factors for effacement include:
• Having a short cervix (<25 mm)
• Having a history of preterm labor or birth
• Having twins or other multiples
Complications associated with effacement include:
• Preterm labor: Effacement can sometimes trigger preterm labor (labor that starts before 37 weeks). This is more likely to happen if you have a short cervix (<25 mm) or a history of preterm labor/birth. If you experience any signs or symptoms of preterm labor (contractions, pelvic pressure, low back pain, etc.), please contact your healthcare provider immediately.
• Preterm birth: Effacement can also lead to preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks). Preterm birth is more likely to occur if you have a short cervix (<25 mm), twins or other multiples, or a history of preterm labor/birth. Preterm babies are at increased risk for health problems such as respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), sepsis, and cerebral palsy. They may also have difficulty feeding and maintaining their body temperature. If you think you are going into preterm labor, please contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Other Related Terms
Terms related to the term Effacement include the following:
• Cervix: The lower, narrow end of the uterus that opens into the vagina.
• Uterus: A muscular organ located in the pelvis that houses and nourishes the developing fetus during pregnancy.
• Vagina: The tubular structure that leads from the external genitals to the cervix of the uterus.
This image shows how often the term ‘Effacement’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:
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