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What is Effacement?

What is Effacement?

Pregnancy
Jan 27, 2018

Effacement is a fancy word for the thinning of a cervix. This is one of the things that must happen before a baby can be born vaginally. Along with dilation and station, effacement is used to determine the progress a cervix is making during labour.

Also referred to as ripening, effacement is measured in percentage. Fully effaced, or 100% effaced, would mean that the cervix is similar in thickness to a piece of paper, and often a care provider will even say, “it’s paper thin.”

While dilation is what most people focus on to determine the progress of labour, effacement is almost more important! Before a cervix can fully dilate, it needs to soften and thin before it can fully open. The early labour contractions will often mostly cause the cervix to efface rather than dilate, so think of this as the prep stage before the stronger contractions of active labour will open the cervix and push the baby down and out!

Dilation, effacement, station, and position are all equal and important parts of your labour story. When discussing your progression with your healthcare provider, always get all the information. Too often we focus on dilation, but that's only one piece of the puzzle.

We encourage you to learn more about our "What in the World" series. Please see our A to Z index for a whole host of pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting information and terminology.


Heather Crossan is a certified DONA birth and postpartum doula certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding educator, as well as a certified Henna artist. She has been an active doula in Calgary for the past eight years, is the past-president of the Calgary Doula Association, and was the former provincial representative of Alberta (SPAR) for DONA International. She is also the only DONA Advanced doula in Alberta. Heather is also a birth doula trainer and the owner of Doula Essentials. She is well-known within the international doula community and greatly respected by the medical providers in the city of Calgary and surrounding areas. She takes great pride supporting her clients through the entire journey.