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Cervical Ripening

What is cervical ripening?

During pregnancy, the cervix is closed to keep the baby inside the uterus. Once you labor begins, your cervix will open, or dilate wide enough to let the baby come through. When the cervix changes from being closed and firm to soft and thin, this is called cervical ripening.

Why is cervical ripening necessary?

In some cases, it’s necessary for your physician to perform a procedure that ripens the cervix. This procedure is necessary when the doctor or midwife decides it is best to have the baby in the near future. Reasons for this decision include:

  • You are 7-10 days past your due date
  • There are health concerns for you or your baby.

What are the benefits associated with this procedure?

Cervical ripening is optional. You do not have to have the procedure before labor is induced. However, there are several benefits to having cervical ripening. Cervical ripening may help start natural labor or even shorten the labor process. Some women go into labor after cervical ripening without requiring an induction medication. Another benefit of cervical ripening is that it helps those medications, like oxytocin, be more successful. Cervical ripening can also be done as an outpatient procedure.

What are the risks associated with this procedure?

Some risks associated with cervical ripening include:

  • The uterus could begin contracting too fast after the medication is inserted.
  • Although it is unlikely, contractions could be 90 seconds or more, and could cause fetal distress.
  • Fetal distress may require an emergency cesarean section to deliver the baby.
  • The procedure may not be successful and a cesarean section may be necessary to deliver the baby.

Keep in mind that you and your baby will be monitored for an hour after the procedure to make sure there are no reactions to the medication.

How do I prepare for cervical ripening?

The day before the procedure you may want to pack an overnight bag in case the procedure induces labor and you are admitted to the hospital.

The day of the procedure:

  • Have a light meal before coming to your appointment. A light breakfast can include cereal, toast, and a drink. A light lunch can include soup, sandwich, and a drink.
  • Once you are home, continue your normal daily activities.

When should I call my health care provider?

  • If contractions last more than 90 seconds
  • If you have more than 3 contraction within 10 minutes
  • Your water breaks
  • You experience vaginal bleeding
  • Your baby’s movement become much more or much less active