Cervical Dilation Reversal

One of the doulas on a mailing list that I’m on recently posted a question about whether it’s possible for a woman’s cervix to reverse in dilation and for the past few days the responses have been pouring in. Emphatically, yes. Many of the women had either been with a mother whose cervix reversed, or observed it themselves, or experienced it during their births. In Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery she tells the story of one of the women who gave birth on The Farm who, afraid that labor was moving too quickly and was getting out of control, undilated.

“Judith…on hearing that she was fully dilated, became very sober, very serious. If someone said something funny, she was the only one who didn’t laugh…She coughed once, a shallow, polite little cough that obviously didn’t get anything done. By this time I was getting curious as to what was going on…So I put on another sterile glove and once again checked Judith’s dilation. She was only four centimeters dilated! I was amazed. I had never known before that a woman could go backwards and undilate herself. When Judith heard what she had done, she admitted that she had been worried that the labor had been coming on so fast that it was getting out of control. I told her that it was supposed to feel like that…She relaxed and in one or two more rushes [contractions] she was fully dilated again and after a few good pushes, Abigail was born.” (201-202)

She also tells the story here (around 3:00).

Ina May Gaskin repeats quite often that a “loose mouth makes a loose bottom,” and that an upset or scared birthing mother will have a hard time delivering, one of the reasons why dilation reversals and stalled labor are occasionally observed when women shift into the unfamiliar surroundings of the hospital. Ina May points to the ease with which most relaxed, comfortable, good-humored and confident mothers have in birthing, which is made easier by a comfortable environment.

There are some medical explanations as well including swelling and membrane rupture here, which are less likely to consider the mother’s emotional state as a contributing factor. Also, cervix measurements aren’t done with great accuracy, so different nurses over time might take different readings based on their individual perceptions, which might account for minor “reversals.” Overall, however, I found very little online to explain what’s going on with dilation reversals, something which Ina May also talks about in the above video, but stress does make the body do all sorts of interesting things and so I don’t doubt her expert opinion.


2 thoughts on “Cervical Dilation Reversal

  1. This is so interesting! I didn’t experience a dilation reversal myself, but with my second, I had barely made it to the birthing center, and jumped in the birthing tub and I felt my baby crown. I was also very scared to birth her so fast and told my midwife that I was not ready to have my baby out yet. I kept telling her I need more time. I don’t want to push her out yet. So she held my cervix in a way to relieve the pressure from the crowing baby’s head and in a very soothing voice walked me through opening my cervix enough saying “open…open…open… like a flower” then the pressure was relieved and my baby’s head slid back inside again, until I was ready to push again. She also instructed me to let the contraction go until I was ready to push again.
    Her Name was Mary, and she has the most soothing voice I’ve ever heard. She also had a Celtic circle tattooed on her “catching hand” and it was in memory of one of the baby’s she caught and the parents knew he was not going to survive. The father tattooed the Celtic circle on her hand as she requested so she can remember him and as a symbol for the circle and continuation of life. I asked her about it after I saw it on her hands as she guided my underwater baby towards my chest after birth:)

    Lovely informative blog mashaAllah:)


  2. Wow, what an experience! I’ve heard about how second births can come on much faster than the first and that seems to be no exception. Thank you for sharing, and nice blog. I particularly like the beautiful Cairo photos 🙂

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