Some Important Facts About Cervical Softening
Most women who are expecting are familiar with the term cervical softening, probably because they have almost certainly run across it in an expectant’s mother guide or heard their physician refer to it. So what is cervical softening and why is it important during pregnancy?
Cervical softening, also part of the ripening of the cervix, is one of the final signs that the body is ready for labor. The ripening of the cervix itself typically means the act of the cervix thinning, becoming relaxed, softening, and ultimately opening once the uterine contractions have started.
Most of the time, the cervix softens on its own. After all, it is the biological function of the cervix to soften during labor so that the baby can be born. However, occasionally there are complications.
Sometimes, a cervix does not soften or ripen on its own. When this occurs, especially if the woman is past her due date, the doctor might decide to induce the labor. Other times, the labor might be induced if there are other health problems to consider, such as epilepsy or preeclampsia, a dangerous health condition that some women develop during pregnancy.
There are herbs that can encourage the cervix to soften on its own, but these should only be taken under the supervision of the doctor, as some herbs can actually cause harm to the unborn fetus. Some common herbs used to soften the cervix include Blue and Black Cohosh, Flax Seed Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Borage, and Black Current Oil. Because these can be used to soften the cervix, it is very important to avoid these herbs throughout the rest of the pregnancy. However, some physicians state that these herbs do not have any biological effect on the softening of the cervix at all and therefore are ineffective. Still, it pays to err on the side of caution.
If the cervix is softened by the doctor, then there are a few different techniques that might be used. If your cervix is already a little bit dilated then the physician might either use their fingers or an instrument to separate the water bags from the uterus. This can release prostaglandins, hormones that can help ripen the cervix.
Prostaglandin medications can be used to achieve the same effect, too. Medication inserted into the vagina can help encourage contractions which might help start the labor. This does not usually cause any pain and is similar to receiving an ordinary vaginal exam. One popular medication used to soften the cervix is cervadil.
A hooked instrument can also be used to manually rupture the membranes, causing your water to break. Once this occurs, and if your cervix is already a little ripe, then this might start up contractions. Although the thought of using a hooked instrument might seem archaic, rupturing the membranes this way does not cause any pain and some women even find that it brings relief. In fact, some women do not even feel the membranes rupturing at all until they feel the liquid itself.
Sometimes, the cervix has to be softened and the contractions must be stimulated at the same time. It is possible that the medications used to encourage and stimulate contractions, such as Pitocin, can bring on stronger contractions than those that come on naturally. However, on the positive side, labors that are induced tend to progress faster which means that the total time in labor might be reduced. If contractions are going to be stimulated or the cervix is going to be ripened manually, then your physician should discuss pain medication options and management techniques with you beforehand so that you are prepared.