The closer you get to the end of your pregnancy, the more you will hear about “effacing,” “cervical effacement” or “effacement.”

What is effacement?

It’s the process by which the cervix prepares for delivery. After the baby has engaged in the pelvis, it gradually drops closer to the cervix. The cervix will gradually soften, shorten and become thinner. You might hear phrases like “ripens” or “cervical thinning,” which refer to effacement.

How is it measured?

Effacement is measured in percentages. For example, your health care provider may tell you that you are effaced 50%, which means you are half way to being completely effaced. When you are 100% effaced or completely effaced, your cervix is paper-thin and labor is right around the corner.

How will I know if and when I am effaced?

In your final weeks of pregnancy, your health care provider will routinely check for effacement. In addition, as soon as you arrive at your birth location, you will be checked for effacement. If you are a first-time mother, your cervix will usually efface before it dilates.
If you have previously had children, your cervix will usually dilate before effacement.
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Compiled using information from the following sources:

1. Mayo Clinic Guide To A Healthy Pregnancy. Harms, Roger W., M.D., et al, Ch. 11.