My Body Wouldn’t/Won’t – Dilate

* Since this post still gets quite a number of visit 2 years after the original post.  I want to update also with a link to another resource and possible explanation to many of the questions posed here.  After reading this post, do visit Improving Birth to read Cervical Scar Tissue – A Cause of Preventable C-Sections.

The first time I heard a woman say that her body wouldn’t (can’t, won’t, don’t) dilate, it was from my own mother.  She was telling me the story of my birth.  She held up 7 fingers and told me that her body wouldn’t dilate past 7cm.  I went into distress and passed meconium.  I was delivered by emergency c-section.  It is a story that I can’t remember ever not being aware of.

Since becoming a mother myself and a childbirth educator and birth doula, I have heard numerous women with very similar stories.  The common line being – I just wouldn’t dilate.  There seems to be a lot of emphasis put on how dilated a woman is and isn’t beginning in her final weeks of pregnancy and continuing on through enduring vaginal exam after vaginal exam to check on the progress of dilation.  Dilation is a very necessary part of the labor process.  We must open for our babies to be born.  However, with this story seemingly becoming more and more common, you must ask.  Why aren’t we opening?  Are we biologically dysfunctional beings whose bodies are not capable of bringing forth the lives that will carry on our species without medical or surgical help?  What is happening?  How is the modern woman different from all the women who gave birth before her?

To begin looking into this story a little more, let’s look at the following animated birth video.  The video shows what is happening on the inside of our body as we labor.  You will see the cervix – opening to the uterus – thin and open (effacement and dilation) so that the baby can come into the birth canal.  Another thing to notice in the animation is all the movement happening in the mother’s body and also with the baby.

Labor Progresses in Six Ways!

This video is a great illustration of how dilation is only one of many things that occurs in the woman’s laboring body before the baby can be born.  Labor is like a dance.  Some of the dance is choreographed and other parts of it are free form.  The partners in the dance are the mother and the baby.  This dance has six choreographed steps.

  • The cervix softens (ripens) – during the final weeks of pregnancy, hormones called prostagladins begin to soften the thick cervix making it able to move and stretch.  Earlier in pregnancy the cervix needed to remain thick and long (between 3 and 5cm) as the opening of the uterus in order to maintain the pregnancy.
  • The position of the cervix changes – through much of your pregnancy your cervix will be posterior (pointing toward your back away from the birth canal).  In the later stages of pregnancy, the cervix begins to move toward the front of your body (anterior) and the birth canal.
  • The cervix thins and shortens (effaces) – hormones and pressure from the baby resting lower in the abdomen helps the cervix to begin to thin and become shorter (effacement).  This is usually measured by percentages and is told to women after vaginal exams.  100% effacement is a paper-thin cervix.
  • The cervix opens (dilates) – This usually begins with regular contractions of the uterus after the previous 3 cervical changes mentioned here occur.  Contractions pull the uterus opened and a cervix that is ready for labor responds to this work by dilating.  Pressure from the baby moving lower into the pelvis also helps to dilate the cervix.  It is also common in some women that they dilate from 1 to 3 centimeters before noticing any other positive signs of labor.  The cervix will dilate throughout the labor process to 10cm (almost 4in.) to allow the baby to pass through.
  • The baby rotates – The most favorable position for birth is the OA position where the hard part of the baby’s skull is facing the front of the mother’s body.  However, this is not a requirement for vaginal birth, and positioning of the baby can vary, some positions making labor and birth a little more difficult than others.  Visit the website Spinning Babies for suggestions on how to help your baby get into the optimal position for birth.  The baby’s head may also “mold” to better fit through the pelvis and birth canal.  The baby’s head becomes longer and thinner.  This is normal.  A baby’s skull is not fused together so that it is capable of this amazing thing.  Your baby’s head will return to the round shape a few days after birth.
  • The baby descends – Watch the following animation that illustrates the baby’s descent into the pelvis and birth canal.  Descent in measured in “stations”.

Dilation is just one of many things that must happen in labor for birth to occur.  For some women dilation happens gradually over time.  It isn’t uncommon for a woman to walk around for week dilated to 2cm.  However, it also is not uncommon for a woman to not begin dilating until she knows she is in labor, as it is actually the 4th and final change that the cervix makes in preparation for birth.


Another common element to this story of the cervix that won’t dilate, (though not always) is that the labor was either induced or augmented with pitocin.  In naturally occurring labor, our body releases oxytocin – a hormone that cause the uterus to contract.  Pitocin is a synthetic version of this hormone that care providers use to artifically cause the woman’s uterus to contract before it is ready (induction), or if the uterus seems to be fatigued at some point during labor.

Before an induction is scheduled, a woman should receive what is called a Bishop’s scoreThis score tells the woman and her care provider how favorable the cerivx is for labor.  Inducing labor before a woman’s cervix is ready can increase the risk of complications like stalled progress (no dilation), overstimulating the uterus, fetal distress, and cesarean section.      When labor needs to occur for medical reasons or because you have made the personal decision to induce your labor, your practitioner can use artifical means of preparing the cervix as well.  Artifical prostagladins are inserted into the vagina around the cervix to cause changes.  It is important to keep in mind that many of these medications have great risks.  Inform yourself of these risks and decide if the benefits of inducing labor outweigh the risks of the procedure. 

Another consideration is that the body is being forced to do something that it has not yet completed the preparation for.  As was mentioned before, labor is a dance between mother and baby.  So, when inducing labor it could be the case that either the mother or the baby is not ready for the labor process – or both partners.

Labor Augmentation

How long does it take women to go through the labor process?  What if labor stalls out?  We know that for the first time mother the average time she will spend in labor will be around 16 hours.  This means that there are plenty of women who labor normally for longer than that, and plenty who don’t labor that long.  Our bodies are unique.  Our babies are unique.  There are many variations of normal in labor.  So, how do we know if we need augmentation with pitocin in labor?  The sure answer would be if mother or baby are showing signs of physical decline and the birth needs to happen as soon as is possible.

The thing to consider when deciding whether or not labor augmentation is something that you do need is the normal pauses that happen in many normal labors.  There are pauses between contractions.  Often there is a pause in between stages of labor before active labor and before the pushing phase.  These pauses allow our bodies the break they need to continue the hard work ahead.  The question would then be, how are you and your baby tolerating labor?  Is there something in your environment making you feel uncomfortable or afraid?  If so, remove it.  The hormones that orchestrate the music of our dance can be impeded if the mother feels threatened in any way.  We don’t want to birth in an unstable environment.  Also consider whether or not you may simply need to change positions, have alone time with your loved ones, or take a shower.  All of these things have the potential to get labor going strong again.

A recent study concluded that women are being held to unrealistic time tables where labor is concerned.  It could be that we haven’t been patient enough with labor.

To Use or Not to Use Pitocin

There are correct and necessary times for the use of nearly every medication that is used in labor and delivery.  Many of those times, the answer of whether or not to use pitocin or other medications in labor is obvious.  Without the medication the mother or baby would be at a greater risk of harm.

However, is it fair for us to think that somehow our bodies were dysfunctional if they did not respond to medications the way we or our doctors had hoped?  It isn’t.  It also does not mean that your body won’t labor normally in your next pregnancy.  Often, it simply means your body wasn’t ready to do what it was asked to do at that time.  It does not mean you are broken or somehow faulty.  Pitocin was used in my mother’s labor.  She went from being able to walk around the halls to slumping in the floor when her labor was augmented.  I went into distress which is a common risk with Pitocin, and emergency cesarean was then necessary for our safety.  It wasn’t that my mother couldn’t dilate.  It was that we both experienced a side effect of medication.


Of course, there are exceptions to this.  Our body’s can naturally have difficulty dilating as well.  Malpositioning of our baby.  Stress.  Possible hormone problems.  Past traumatic experiences.  These things can factor in to our body’s natural ability to open for birth.  The difference is that many of these naturally occurring difficulties can also be worked through to allow our bodies to go on as they normally would.  In cases that this is impossible, the experience of medical professionals is needed to help us birth safely.

Our bodies are not broken.  With patience, love, and the right environment, we can be witness to them working in their own time to bring forth our babies.  For times, when it isn’t possible for us to wait on birth, we can’t continue to place blame on our bodies.  Call our babies stubborn.  Or fear the next time we face birth.  We must realize that it was not our bodies that failed us.  It was a situation beyond our control.  Take back our bodies.  We aren’t broken.

About Kelli

I am Kelli B. Haywood, LCCE, a childbirth educator certified through Lamaze, a birth doula, and prenatal yoga instructor. My two little girls light my life. I am the wife of artist, musician, and teacher - John Haywood.
This entry was posted in Birth Stories, Birth Topics, Healthy Pregnancy, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to My Body Wouldn’t/Won’t – Dilate

  1. Marcie says:

    Kelli, this post is amazing. I was told that my cervix is “oddly shaped” and I wouldn’t dilate so I had a cesarean. I have always felt strange and sad about it, like something was wrong with me physically.

    Thank you.

    • Birth True says:

      Thanks for commenting Marcie. Unfortunately, this story is all too common. It is ok to feel sad about a decision that was made in the birth of your child. Those are legitimate emotions that should be expressed and processed. What we need to try not to do is feel like somehow our bodies failed us. If it would help to learn the details that went into your care provider recommending c-section, order your medical records. You should be able to obtain a free copy of those from the hospital where you delivered and also the doctor’s office. It might be helpful to ask you current care provider (whether the same or different) if your cerivx does have an “odd shape”. Ask them how is it shaped oddly if they say that is in fact the case. This for some can help alleviate any questioning still going on inside.
      While we know that labor progessed in those 6 ways I mentioned in this post, each labor is different. If you were to be pregnant again and wanted to try vaginal birth, there could be alternative means to encourage labor to progress even if there is an issue with the cervix. It is all a matter of finding a care provider who is supportive of exploring fully the choices available.
      Also, I want to mention the book Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. She wrote it in the 70s and the language reflects that period, but there are some awesome birth stories in it. One is of a woman who had two uteruses and two cervixes. She had 3 babies – all vaginal deliveries with no complications. Two of the babies were breech and the other head down. 2 from her left uterus and one from her right!

  2. Pingback: The Ultrasound Revealed My Baby is Big – What Now? | Birth True Blog

  3. Jeanne says:

    I found your blog while searching for causes of impeded dilation. My story is a little different than what you’ve written but also has shared elements. I did have some benefits a lot of other mamas did not: 1) an OB who actually had my and my son’s best interests in mind (she discouraged induction prior to 41 weeks with all her patients and she and I were in complete agreement in waiting until 42 weeks with my son); and 2) a hospital that was very pro-natural birth (they were even installing a birthing pool room at the time I delivered) – I received no pressure to manually speed the progress of labor or to opt for a c-section. The decision was left entirely in my hands and my doctor only suggested cesarean after I’d been on pitocin for over 60 hours and actually been pushing for over 3 hours with zero progress.
    Let me backtrack. They softened my cervix with a misoprostol and then put me on pitocin once I dilated to nearly 2 cm (at 42 weeks + 2 days I was still at zero). I think I finally made it to 4 cm and my water broke 58 hours after the process began. My body actually progressed fairly quickly from 4 to 10 cm and everything seemed to be textbook until I was told to go ahead and push when I was ready. Three and a quarter hours later, I had only succeeded in getting my son’s forehead firmly wedged on my pelvic ring (he had a nice imprint around his frontal plates and a bruise across his eyes and bridge of his nose when they pulled him out). It was at this point that my doctor gently asked me if I would consider a c-section before I wore out; but that she’d leave it up to me. I’d gone pain-med free up to this point, and was exhausted enough to agree rather eagerly.
    I don’t regret this decision, especially considering that my placenta fell apart as they pulled him out. But it has always bothered me that I never even dilated to 1 cm on my own, despite employing every natural-birthing prep I knew. I’ve heard theories about the baby’s head circumference and positioning placing appropriate pressure on the cervix to cause dilation (my son had a 15.5″ head circ). I really wish I’d known the cause. My daughter came scheduled c-section because my new doc (we moved) was worried about a repeat “stuck baby” and subsequent uterine rupture – thankfully, her policy is to not schedule prior to 39 weeks. My daughter’s head was “only” 14.5″ and I can’t help but wonder if I would have had a different outcome. Then again, at 39+2, I wasn’t showing any signs of labor, so who knows how big her head would have been if/when I did.
    I do apologize for this long comment. My “inability to dilate” (or rather, start dilating by 42 weeks) has been a huge puzzle to me, along with the question of how big a newborn’s head can be for the average pelvis. (I know another mama who had a successful vaginal delivery of her firstborn, but her 16″-headed secondborn got stuck just like mine did). Is it possible our babies’ heads are getting bigger on average as well?
    Thanks for reading … 🙂

    • Kelli says:

      Jeanne (((HUGS))). I definitely understand your puzzlement. Those are valid questions. It isn’t possible to know what could be or could have been possible for your births, because there is so much that factors into how we experience birth and what we experience. With that said, it is possible there was true CPD (cephalopelvic disproportion) going on, or that your baby was not in a optimal position for birth. There are many variations of head down positions, some a little more difficult than others. Another question would be, how much were you able to be up and moving during your pushing stage. Did you try different positions? If you haven’t seen the following websites, you might find some more answers there: and (has some great information for mothers).
      My opinion on your question of are we growing babies with bigger heads is – yes and no. Again, there is a lot that factors into our babies size. I wrote another post that addresses these questions But, I do not think in general that we will grow a baby that our body can’t birth without some sort of external factor either that is within our control (diet) or outside of our control (positioning). In my opinion it would not make sense in evolutionary terms or even survival of the species terms for us to have to rely heavily on surgery in order to birth. So, for some of us genetics and external/internal factors result in a baby that is unable to fit properly into our pelvis. But, true CPD is rare, and it has been found that women with CPD just as often have average sized babies as they do large ones.
      So, it is possible that you wouldn’t have this problem again, as your friend didn’t have it the first time. There are also some other factors. If you’d like to email me and talk more, please do –

      • Jeanne says:

        I actually recently checked and was really struck by the page on Flexion of head position. After we struck up discussion I met one other mama in my duedate group who had the exact same thing happen to her, only with her 5th child (first four were natural births). Same huge head, same bruising pattern across bridge of nose, eyes, and wrapping around the frontal plate on her son that my son exhibited. Her son’s head was 16″ in circ. I’m really starting to wonder if it had more to do with the forehead-first presentation for both of us than anything else. I know my doc at the time desperately tried to tuck his chin, but no dice. Can it really be as simple as a matter of getting the forehead presenting in the case of a larger-skulled baby? The website seems to suggest that my utter lack of initial dilation might also have resulted from his head position as well (fully engaged or not).

  4. carrie creamer says:

    hi there, thought i would add to this discussion while its fresh. My daughter was born one week ago, after 61 hours. My waters broke late on the tuesday night, with contractions starting around five am. I stayed at home for as long as possible, but went into hospital at around 4pm when contractions were regular and less then five minutes.
    I was only 1cm dilated when i arrived to hospital. I continued like this till 11pm until i was offered pethodin and induction. It helped me rest and deal with the contractions. At 5am it started again, with regular contractions until 4pm when they increased to every 2mins for 5 hours. By this point i was taking gas and air. Everything else was good to go, but still i stood at 1cm… finally they took me to the delivery ward and offered me an epidural as i was very distressed and in pain. They gave me regular hormones for 6 hours but still i didnt dilate. i finally made progress until midday the next day but only after additional drugs. i finally delivered my daughter by forceps after a massive amount of drugs and pushing.
    The sadness for me is that i dont understand why every thing else worked but i couldnt progress, it was said that i obviously couldnt cope with the pain at 1cm…and that i had a low pain thresh hold…and that i was never in labour. Something that makes me quite angry and confused.
    Still Grace is here and we are most happy…


    • Kelli says:

      That does sound like a very confusing situation. It sounds like you were laboring for quite awhile. Did they tell you what position your baby was in? When you got to the hospital were you able to be up and moving, doing things like walking the stairs? Did they give you cervidil to help your cervix dilate or offer you natural alternatives to help progress labor? There are so many factors that go into these sorts of things that it is hard to pinpoint why or possibilities without being your care provider or doula. Sometimes your water does break prematurely before labor begins. It is frustrating to be called out like it seems you were having been in the hospital and laboring for such a long time. There are women who can labor with pitocin without pain medication, but much of the time the medication is necessary for relief for women going through an induction. I’m so glad you can be happy in the midst of the confusion. It might be worth getting a copy of your medical records and finding another OB or midwife to review them with, or ask more questions of the person who attended Grace’s birth. – Blessings.

    • Jeanne says:

      Carrie – I just had to offer you a hug! I got the same “you’re not really in labor” speech from the L&D nurses until my water broke. I think those who’ve never experienced a non-progressive labor really have no frame of reference for how much it hurts to have your body wrestling with itself. My assumption is they’re trying to gauge everything by the pain standards of a “normal labor,” not realizing how discouraging (and in the process, stress-inducing) their words are to someone who’s body is already not doing what she expected.
      Kelli’s right – pain thresholds are all over the place, and there aren’t many who can go through induction without relief. I went into it knowing I had a high pain threshold (my whole family does), but I haven’t personally known anyone (even on web forums) who could go more than 12 hours on pitocin without an epidural. I hope it helps you to know that. My own doctor (current) told me that she wouldn’t be able to do it. :chuckle: Exploring what happened with your labor experience will definitely help cool the anger and bring you peace with what happened then and what you choose to do in the future!

  5. christina woodford says:

    my water broke, and they induced me, i still had not dilated up to 1 hours after that, i ended up having to have a c-section, a baby can not stay in any longer then 18 hours after the water brakes. they told me i need to book a c-section for my next, they never explained why this happend, and i would like to try a natural birth this time around, is it possible/

    • Kelli says:

      What you experienced was premature rupture of membranes. Or, your water broke before labor began. How long did you wait after your water broke before they started the induction of labor? The risk with PROM is infection in the uterus. This is usually more risky the longer your membranes are ruptured without being in labor. 24 hours is the typical time limit that many care providers put on waiting for labor to progress after PROM. Antibiotics can be given through IV when it seems that labor is not progressing as quickly as preferred to reduce the risk of infection. You absolutely should look into VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) if you desire a natural birth for your next pregnancy. PROM doesn’t typically occur twice to the same mama. Actually only about 6% of labors begin with the water releasing first. Look into eating a diet with 80-120 grams of protein a day. This will help ensure that you grow a strong amniotic sac (bag of waters). You will probably need to visit another OB or midwife to review your case if your current provider doesn’t support you trying for vaginal birth. For more information on VBAC visit I hope this helps. – Blessings

      • Cortney says:

        My water broke at 33 weeks after a hard sneeze at work. I went to my Dr.’s office and they confirmed that it was my water. I was then sent to the hospital. They monitored me for about 4 hours and labor never started. I was about 2cm. They decided to send me to a regional hospital that had a NICU. It was a 45 minute ride by ambulance. After there, they monitored me for 24 hours. No labor and no distress. They decided to keep me there, bed-ridden, till I hit 35 weeks. I spent 10 DAYS in the hospital pregnant after my water broke. The pumped me full of antibiotics and steroids. At 35 weeks, they induced my labor, which lasted 12 hours. I had him vaginally and everything went great after they started the pitocin. So, just because your water breaks, it doesn’t mean you will go into labor or have a time limit to deliver your baby. They did keep a close eye on my temp for signs of infection and the baby’s heartbeat. They checked about 4 times a day. It was a very surreal experience, because I use to be one of those that thought you had to deliver within 24 hours of your water breaking.

  6. Taliah says:

    Gloria Lemay has many good points, suggestions and reasons for all of these hospital and medical happenings with you mamas.

    However, I strongly feel that a babies head is bigger with a cesarean as it did not get to fold and mold into the canal and come out. I have noticed that cesareaned babies have often HUGE soft spots and heads 1-2 inches bigger than mamas who birth babies vaginally.

    I have no documented research on the proof of that, other than the many babies I have witness be born both ways.

    I have had a PROM labor and a ROA position baby be born. My PROM baby was born in the hospital and I had no signs of active labor for many hours. I was at 2cm at 37wks and then at 40wks and water broken, I stayed at 2cm for about 10 hours after my water broke.

    I dilated fully within 3hrs, and they were not confident at first. I rejected many checks and I have video footage of not so nice doctors discouraging me from my decisions. When that doctor left and my doctor ended up being on rotation that day, it was like a sigh of relief and every thing changed immediately.

    My son was born UC and I had full maternity care and not once did my ob mention a large baby or position-except for head down. She said “head down is all we care about, and even breech isn’t a big deal, its just nice to know”

    There are so many what ifs in birth that its just so hard to hold on to. I am pretty set on keeping my birth clients up and not on their backs at all. Gravity is huge with birth. And so is keeping proper oxygen. Purple pushing and teeth gritting and breath holding is the opposite of productive.

    I think all of you made good decisions with your babies, and while things could have been different, you can’t dwell on it now, just learn and educate others so they can learn from it.

  7. Daniella says:

    Hi I had an induction in 2005 1 week before my son was due since I had gestational diabetes & the doc said he would be huge, after 2 days of being induced with cervadil & pitocin i still had not dialated or felt a contraction they did a c-section after changing doc`s in 2006 i had my daughter in 2009 with a repeat c-section 1 week early again but also had contractions from 5 months on without any dialation or cervical changes at all for the 9 months now I am pregnant again 28 weeks and once again have been having what the doc says are just BH contractions but no cervical changes since about 15 weeks my doc thinks my cervix is fine its far back & doesnt dialate with the contractions I think its abnormal to never have dialated ever with 3 pregnancies even in the last week of the 2nd shouldnt I have gotten at least a cm everyother woman I know says how they were 2 cm when they went for their last appt. or something along those lines I feel like my cervix doesnt work properly

    • Kelli says:

      (((HUGS))) to you Daniella. I’m sorry you feel like your cervix doesn’t work properly. That is a horrible feeling to feel like your body doesn’t work the way you think it should. Here are some suggestions that might help you sort these feelings out. 1. How big was your first baby? 2. Were you able to be up and about after they began your induction or were you restricted to bed? Gravity does so much to help put pressure on the cervix and increase dilation. Also, remember… your body was not in natural labor. Often the body will resist what it isn’t ready to do. 3. BH contractions can be very noticeable and is the body “practicing” for labor, but BH contractions don’t dilate the cervix. They are very different from true labor contractions in both the way they feel and what they do in the body. So, to have expected your cervix to dilate because of this might not be an expectation your body could meet. It is very normal for a woman to not dilate at all before labor begins. For some, that is the last stage of labor to take hold. Consider this… have you ever been in true labor initiated by your body? For some women, labor won’t begin on its own until after 40 weeks. Full term is 42 weeks. What might happen if you waited to see what your body did when going into labor on its own? It might surprise you. But, emotion and our thoughts play so much into what our body’s are able to do during labor as well. It is something to think about. What would your body do in a completely on its own situation? Not manipulated in any way by interventions and medications. That is how you could arrive at the answer to whether or not there might be something up. Also, keeping in mind pregnancies are different and there are so many factors at play. Take a look at You might find some help there as well. 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

  8. Rey says:

    Thanks for this post. I am still questing after the answers but it is comforting to hear from other women that have had the same experiences. Labor never began with either of my babies. They were both born via cesarean in 2007 and in 2010. With my daughter my membranes ruptured at 40 weeks 3 days and I went in for an immediate induction. I had been dilated a finger tip and 80% since about 34 weeks, and there I stayed. No more no less, no progress at all. No contractions. In fact…I was pretty comfortable. I had had hyperemesis thoughout the entire pregnancy and it had finally settled in the 9th month. I labored for 24 hours with a steady progress in the first 12 hours from 1 cm, to 3 cm to 5 cm. Everything seemed to be progressing nicely. My daughter and I were handling induced labor like a champ. I felt empowered. I knew my body was doing something amazing beyond my control and I had a “bring it on” attitude. At 3 cm’s I opted for an epidural that was offered to me because I had my mind fixed on it since I discovered I was pregnant. I believe it was one of my bigger mistakes made that night. We’ll call that shackle #1. Because I had PROM I was hooked up to an IV, otherwise known as shackle #2. After about the 12th hour it was difficult to locate my daughter’s heart rate with the external monitor so they used an internal monitor, a hair thin coil they “screwed” into my baby’s head, otherwise known as shackle #3. The thought of it ripping out of her head if I made any movement whatsoever was paralyzing. Finally a catheter, otherwise known as shackle #4. And my contraction monitor, #5, and heart rate monitor on my finger, #6. I was literally chained to this bed confined to 2 positions..supine and laying left side. It was horrible! I wanted to move around so bad. My body was screaming at me to get up and move and I couldn’t. Probably in response to my extreme inability to work with my body, it stalled at 5 cm, and there it stayed for the next 12 hours until I was begging for a c-section. I knew then the pain I was enduring was for naught and it immediately became unbareable. I dealt with some minor post pardum depression which I believe to ths day was mainly brought upon by my utter disappointment in my own body to do what so many women seem to do naturally without issue on a daily basis. I still question to this day what is wrong with me. My son was born a little more than a year ago and once agan at 41 weeks and 3 days, nothing. He was a scheduled delivery and he was nearly 10 lbs. His head was 14.5″ which I thought was big but knew I could squeeze through because my body was designed to do so. I had gone my whole pregnancy preparing for a VBAC and nothing. Luckily I have come to appreciate the fact that the procedure even exists. A hundred years ago I probably would have lost them both and possibly my life as well. I had no complications with either delivery. They both went smoothly. My recovery was as to be expected after major surgery. Uncomfortable at times but nothing I couldn’t handle. I have a hair thin smily face across my lower belly easily hidden by a bikini bottem ;o) I had no problems breast feeding, losing weight, etc. And I spent the first 30 minutes of both my babies’ lives with them. Their apgar scores were perfect so they didn’t need to be whisked away to the NICU. I kissed them, I smelled them, I looked into their eyes. Then of course they were taken to the nursery, as every baby is, to be evaluated… and they both spent the remainder of my hospital stay in the room with me unless they needed a routine evaluation, or circumcision (in my son’s case), or I needed to take a shower or something. Everything went fine. But I am still struggling with why dilating (or going into labor naturally) is my ONLY problem. I had no problems getting pregnant. Both pregnancies were fairly easy, low risk, perfectly healthy, all the changes ones body endures during pregnancy happened on time and without fail, obviously. After birth my uterus contracted enough to release the placenta, and then contracted back into it’s regular size no problems. I had no problems lactating. My body did everything else JUST FINE. Why won’t it labor? It doesn’t make sense. I have driven myself crazy even considering conspiracy theories (somebody somewhere in my life gave me something that rendered me enable to labor so the doctors could c-section me and get paid more money!!!) Of course I come to senses quickly, but it is driving me crazy. And although it’s comforting it’s even more alarming to see that this is so often the DX for c-sections all over the country at a seemingly growing rate. All I keep hearing is “everyone’s body is different,” “no one knows why the cervix won’t dilate.” NO! That’s unacceptable. If my body can do everything else to naturally maintain a healthy pregnancy, and then nourish my baby afterwards AND heal it’s self, why can’t it naturally conclude the pregnancy???
    Sorry for the long post. Obviously I am very passionate about this.

  9. Marie says:

    Hello, Just to warn you this is going to be long.I was hoping someone was able to explain to me what went wrong with my pregnancy/birth. I was about three and half months pregnant, I started to feel light headed to the point where i almost was passing out, and see shining specks floating in front of me. The O.B nurse told me I had high blood pressure but nothing was done at that time. Six and half months through my pregnancy my fingers and toes would swell to where i would cry and could barley move or bend them. Made a Dr. appointment had tests done and was diagnosed with preeclampsia and put on bed rest. Things started to get worse I was in and out of the hospital once or twice a week. It got so bad knowing i would be back soon I was sent home with the I.V still taped and wrapped to my hand, only because I had bruises everywhere else no other spot to poke. My Doctor decided the best thing for me would be to start inducing. Before I start this part, The doctor never really explained what she was doing, just did what she needed to do then went back to her office, I was left in the hospital room for hours before she came back. Yes the nurses were there checking baby’s heart beat and my monitors but didn’t really have much to say except the Dr. will be back soon.
    My due date was December 15th, she started the induction in the middle of November. First thing she tried was the pill that softens your uterus. But that didn’t do anything at all. I believe it was a week later she tried the pill again also using an I.V drip no idea what it was at this time. Nurses were coming in to check the progress, said i was having contractions but i wasn’t feeling anything. The Dr. came back to check how thing were. I only dilated to the size of the tip of her pinkie. What ever that is. I thought everything was going good at this time, except every thing stopped no more contractions nothing. They sent me home with no explanation I was really confused. About a week later went back for the third time. They used a half bag of pitocin through the I.V. No contractions nothing again. The nurses said they thought it would have worked this time.Well to make it shorter I went two more times making that five total using half bag more each time, the last time i went a bag and half used. Same thing nothing happened. At this point everyone including the Dr. wasn’t sure what was going on. One night I was feeling sharp back pains i thought this was it time to have my son. Went to the O.B and nope it wasn’t labor it was a bad kidney infection. So i ended up having to stay there till morning to see my Dr. She got there and checked what she needed to and told me we were going to try the pitocin again i was so frustrated i couldn’t even ask questions i just wanted to cry i thought there was something really wrong with me. Knowing i was upset she told me if I didn’t go into labor by Tuesday I’d have a C-section. Tuesday morning came and so did the pitocin, nothing so she called the surgeon he came about 6pm checked me. He wasn’t to genital at all. Sergeant said it wasn’t an emergency to call his crew in so what he was going to do was another bag of pitocin and break my water Waste event dilated. My mom and I freaked out said we didn’t want that again and we would go to a different hospital. So of course he called his crew for the C-section. After my son was born and taken out of the room i was still in surgery i started feeling really sick vomiting and freaking out while I was laying there. Over heard the Dr. say call this other Dr. in something was wrong. The anesthesiologist said to me he is giving me something so id relax. I woke up being wheeled into I.C.U Im not to sure what happened but I had a blood transfusion and they put a balloon in my uterus to contract it back. I guess my uterus not contract so I wouldn’t have never went into labor. Im not to sure if me gaining 75lbs has anything to do with it but after having my son I am borderline diabetic and have hyperthyroid. I cant lose any weight I just keep gaining. If anyone has heard of anything like this PLEASE give me some info its been 4 years and i still not know what is wrong with me!!!!!!! Thank u for your time!!

  10. Rizz says:

    thanks i’ve had 2 induced labours and after my 2nd 9 weeks ago i was told that i don’t dilate normally…it took me weeks to just get 2 cm and they told me i’d never have a non induced labour but once im induced and hit 5 cm it takes no more them 5 min b4 im 10 cm but they still make me wait an hr b4 i can push because i was induced

  11. Lisa says:

    thank you for your information. i came across your site while researching about VBA2Cs.
    with my first baby my waters broke and they had meconium in them so after 12 hours of intense labour and constant monitoring i dialated to 3cm and baby was in distress, everything then seemed to have stopped so my Ob had to get her out in a hurry so it was emergency section for me.

    with my second my water broke and all seemed ok. going up to the hospital and being checked my a midwife i found my cervix was still posterior and even tho i was having 4 minute apart intense contractions there was no dialation. since the baby was fine and it was the middle of the night my ob left me til morning for my c section which was 5 hours. i was checked just before going into surgery and still no change.

    its always upset me that i never got to experience vaginal birth and always felt that maybe if i was induced or left longer maybe i could have had that birthing experience with my 2nd. im pregnant again with my 3rd and im really confused what to do. i feel like a failure because i dont think ill be allowed to give birth vaginally being my cut with my first was large (i was even put on a drip of pain relief it was that bad) and being my failed labour the second time around. still i want to try again but im scared too as i know that if i tried and ended up with another section id feel like i failed AGAIN. i just dont understand i though birth was meant to be a natural process? maybe not for me!!

  12. Hannah says:

    Kellie, thank you so much for this post! When I went into labor with my son, the first thing my midwife did, once it was confirmed true labor, was put me on Pitocin to increase the strength of my contractions. But I had only been in labor for a few hours! Unfortunately, with that being my first baby and not having done much research on the realities of labor, I didn’t know any better. I went along with whatever my midwife and doctor told me. After 35 hours of laboring and maxing out the Pitocin, I got an epidural. I labored on my back in a hospital bed for another 6 hours before the doctor (for the second time) told me to go ahead with a c-section because I was still only dilated 5cm. After nearly 2 days of labor and not eating, I accepted what he said pretty quickly. It wasn’t until we brought our son home and settled into a routine with him that I started to feel robbed. I had said from day 1 of my pregnancy that I absolutely did not want a c-section. I’m 5′ with a small frame and I was afraid that my baby would be too big. At that time, being uneducated about the effects of induction/intervention, I had requested to be induced if my baby grew to be too large. Well one of the midwives at my OB office kept delaying that. Which, as it turns out, probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome anyway. (I have just finished reading your blog about “big babies”…also terrific!) So once everything calmed down and I had time to reflect on my experience, I was truly devastated. I never understood why I just wouldn’t dilated. Neither myself nor my baby was ever in distress. I just wouldn’t open up. But after reading your post, I now see that it most likely was due to the unnatural way that my labor was handled. For my next baby, I’m planning an unmedicated birth in an alternative birthing center, and with a new OB. But for the first time since my son was born, I actually feel optimistic that if I do things right the next time around, I just might be able to achieve the birthing experience that I feel is a right of passage, as well as a privilege, for all women. So thank you! 🙂

  13. Tiffany says:

    I found your story so close to mine had have sence having my daughter 3 yrs ago felt guilty and upset that she was delivered by c section.. my partner and i are getting ready to start trying for our second child and im looking for ways to be able to make my body dilate.

    I was induced at 40+1 weeks, was firstly given the tape stuff that they put on your cervix to soften it.. this did nothing for me to the next morning was given a type of gel that for almost 12 hr seems to also do nothing.. at ten o’clock that night my waters broke after 3 hrs of back pain. Then next morning i was checked and told i was 1cm dilated and they wanted to give me Pitocin. to get things moving. after being on the Pitocin drip for almost 24 hrs and not dilating any further then 1 cm the dr decide they needed to go ahead and do a c section…. Since then i have wondered what would happen when i have another baby and is there a way i can make my body dilate… open to any ideas please.

    Thanks Tiffany

    • Kelli says:

      It is very normal for a 1st time mother and even those who have had children to carry their babies beyond 40 weeks. Technically, you are not considered overdue until 42 weeks. Anytime we are trying to coax our body to do something it may not be ready to do, we also risk that it will not work out in our favor. So, to begin with remember that it wasn’t your body that failed you. It was the medicine that they were relying on. You did not go into labor on your own. If time had passed, it is most likely that you would have went into labor on your own at some point. My best advice in this sort of situation is to find a doctor or midwife who does not put a time limit on a healthy pregnancy that is before the 42 week mark. Also, find books to read that share positive stories of birth. Learn as much as you can about what your body does during labor. I also offer birth and prenatal counseling online along with most of my classes, if you would ever be interested in exploring that. The key is to remember that you did nothing wrong and neither did your body.

  14. Mommy says:

    It was very interesting to read this blog, especially since I was in the exactly same situation just 2 weeks back when I delivered my DD. I would not dilate past 5cm and the doctor induced me and the baby passed meconium leading to a c section. I was very disappointed with the doc since she seemed very insensitive and was behaving as if to suggest that I had done something to put the baby in distress..i had no idea about the side effects of pitocin at the time but i did suspect that it had something to do with the baby being in distress…also the nurse had warned me that the doctor was very aggressive with pitocin me that

    • Mommy says:

      I was just 2 days short of being 40 weeks pregnant and so I wish if only I had refused to be induced.. Or had a different / better ob/gyn maybe it would have been a different story … Oh well..when I see my baby’s face all of this doesn’t seem to matter.

  15. Courtney Ann Lee says:

    Hi, I found this blog from searching on google. I am pregnant again (second time around), my first pregnancy I went until almost 42 weeks, and my body just never went into labor- like it was perfectly happy just being pregnant. Unfortunately, her fluid was running a bit low and she was running out of room to move and her motions slowed down. I was booked to be induced. I had two gel treatments, as my cervix was only around one cm and pretty hard yet.. The next day my water was broken at 5am, the drip was started right away and I had an epidural put in place but it was crooked and a few hours later was corrected. After about 14 hours of the drip, the doctor came in and said I was only four cm, he would give me 40 more minutes if I wanted- then I needed to go in for a csection but “it won’t make a difference” he said.. So we went along and got a csection. Amelia was a beautiful 9lb2oz baby. And I healed up no problems. Now I am pregnant again, I got pregnant when she was ten months old. My doc has suggested because we might want a third to try natural labor again versus a planned csection. I am terrified of going through that ordeal again.. I still have nightmares of her birth… How can I prepare my body this time? I only ever got to four cm with their help. My mother had two csections as well. I noticed a comment you said about past traumas, what did you mean by that as well? I was sexually abused when I was younger, I thought I was over it, but it seems that sometimes with my husband I have like muscle armoring where it becomes hard and I just start to cry.. Even though I’m not sad and don’t know why I’m crying… Could this be related to why I did not dialate? Sorry to write a novel. I just want to be prepared this time, so that it might go better. I will still probably end up with a csection, but I don’t want to have nightmares again.. What can I do to help my cervix? Thank you…

  16. Lauren says:

    I have a question. I labored with all 4 of my pregnancies and never dilated past 1cm and was curious if there is a reason why. I was an extremely healthy, normal (by normal I mean no past medical history at all) 23 year old when I got pregnant & delievered my first. I was however induced with her. I didn’t know any better and do believe I was somewhat bullied into delivering her even though I was 41 weeks 5 days. My body was not ready. Needless to say 36 hours and countless amount of pitocin later my first was born via c-section due to failed induction. At time of delivery I was 1cm dialated. My second arrived 18 months later. I was determined to deliver him naturally. So with new doctors by my side I went into labor 3 days late & already 1cm dialated. However 36 hours later with no interventions I was still only 1 cm and my second was born via section. My third baby I lost at 12 weeks. I was told I could pass the baby at home. However after 3 days of labor I required a D&C because I couldn’t dialated enough to pass the baby. I was 1 cm at the end. My fourth I went into preterm labor at 34 weeks 6 days. They tried to stop my labor after I arrives at the hospital at hour of labor. But after 19 hours of labor in total it could not be stopped and my youngest was delivered 5 weeks early via section. I was 1cm at the time of delivery. Four different pregnancies, four different labors but one outcome…me only dilating to one cm. Any thoughts on why this might happen?

  17. Robin says:

    My question relates to my inability to dilate. I was 40 weeks and 2 days and my placenta was “drying up.” I did not dilate and the RN said probably due to cryro that I had 6 years prior to getting pregnant. C section was done that night. Will I ever dilate and is VBAC or HBAC even possible for me now? The c sec was awful and i didn’t see my boy for about three ours. I did not get to breast feed and I was miserable for about two weeks. That experience has caused me to never want to get pregnant again.

  18. Anca says:

    I was 10 days overdue. Did everything right: refused to be induced. When in labor, refused to be augmented. Labored at home 3 nights, took showers to “stop pre-labor, so that I could rest” –did not stop it one bit, so for 3 nights and 3 days I did a belly dancing motion, to help the baby descend, but more than anything to bear the pain. The level of pain was not “menstrual like contractions”, but solid extremely painful unbearable knock you off your feet contractions (and yes, I do have painful periods, so I can tell the difference). Most of the 3 nights I was in the tub, because the pain was just unbearable. How dilated was I? Who knows, I was waiting for the recommended 4-1-1 before I call the doula (who made a point to not be disturbed before). The morning of the 4th day, I wanted to die, after the night before I was halucinating being back in my childhood, at the seaside. So, rather than die, I went to the hospital. Nobody believed I was in labor, they checked I was 4.5 cm (the woman next to me was making big sounds and she was second labor, so they “trusted” her, checked her before me, she was 3 cm). I still just wanted to die. I was admitted, labored by bouncing all over the room, running to the shower, in and out, feeling like the biggest poop of my life is stuck in my butt and hurts me to death. How much more dilated was I 5 hours later? I was at 5 cm. So, from 4.5 to 5 cm it takes 5 hours. The contractions were back to back, at times, with no pause to breath –is that described in books as “transition”? How can you be transitioning at 5 cm? I kept being told about augmenting the labor, and kept refusing it, with my last forces. Finally, I accepted to have the bag of waters broken, but I also asked for epidural. As soon as they broke the water, they got lots of meconium and called pediatrics to be prepared; they also told me the cord is out, prolapsed, and put it back in. As soon as I got the epidural, I had to lie down and not dance around like before (no more pain, so no need to bounce around); I felt coming back to life. A second before, my whole body was shivering, cold, emptied of all my blood and vital force, and my legs were refusing to carry me, they were collapsing under my body, and I surrendered all my 4 day long will to labor in the hands of epidural. As soon as I got hooked to the monitor, it became evident the baby was having major decelerations. After repeated visits from the nurse, opening the door to check the monitor (the baby had the monitor under the skull’s skin at this point, whatever that is called), I saw lights turning on, and voices calling to ER, and I was told I’m getting c/s. When the doctor was next to me, she said she has 2 minutes to get the baby out. I felt the cut, so they shut lots of cold, cold, extra epidural on my back; I was shaking uncontrollably, tide to the bed, with a nurse holding my head with her hands, because my head was uncontrollably shifting from side to side, against my awareness or perception, and I simply could not stop shaking, like electrocuted. Baby is out: silence. No heart beat and no breathing. She got resuscitated, and rushed to NICU. I was planning to breastfeed w/in first hour of labor. So, thanks for all the info, but it seems like I did it all good: no induction, no augmentation, laboring at home, not disturbing anybody, hiding like an animal in my own tub, licking my own wounds. I also read after the fact that a prolapsed cord is always an indicator of c/s, even if a woman is dilated at 10 cm, still need to stop labor and c/s. So? I survived and my daughter survived. But nobody can tell me what I did wrong, it remains a mistery.

  19. Catherine says:

    Thanks for posting this. I myself was induced at 38 weeks because of preclampsia after 12 hours my water broke but did not dilate at all, 12 hours later still nothing and had to do a c section I was soo upset the Doc said if my water wouldn’t of broke he would of sent me home. My female doc was off duty I liked this guy.

    My second we just went ahead and scheduled a c section the plan was at 39 weeks but I got preclampsia again and placenta was starting to lose fluid so we delivered at 37 weeks no dilation either I felt like my body just didnt know how but now think that she just induced me to early my blood pressure was under control with meds.

    I got fixed so no more babies here this wasn’t how I wanted to deliver, my body doesn’t handle pregnancy well since it seems my preclampsia was worse the second time and I’m happy with just two girls.

  20. chloe says:

    Hi im 40+6 there inducing me in 5 days i. Have a question my cervix will start to thin out and dilate to 2-3 and turn then a day or two later its turned prosterior my cervix is long and thick and only 1cm. Then last night i had contractions after a stretch and sweep they wete 3min apart my cervix dilated to all most 5cm then they stopped agsin when i woke up cervix is prosterior and only 2cm with no signs of labour. This is number 5 for me can anyone explain whats going on

  21. Jess says:

    My mom had a problem with her cervix I never herd o even trying to read up on it. With my brother Her due date was oct 7. My brother was born on nov. 9th. Her cervix never dialated at all. She was induced with the iv and it gave her braxton hick contractions. Never even had pain. After 10 hrs they tried to break her water but they couldn’t. Because her cervix wouldn’t coroperate. They finally did a c section. When my brother was born his skin was very flaky where the ambiotic fluid was drying up on him. The doctorwas very upset and said she should have had the baby a month ago. It wasn’t her normal doc that delivered my brother. It was one she had never seen before. He said that it was a miricle that my brotherand mom survived. Everyone says your body is made for having a baby. Women hd done it naturally many years before the drugs came into play. Well a lot of women died trying to give birth too. Sometimes your body doesn’t do what you expect it to do. I don’t think women should blame themselve for what happens in that situtuation. But I hear women say all the timethe baby comes when he is ready and your body is made for it but that really isn’t always the case. No woman should be scared out of an induction or c section. My cousin refused a c section only to use forcepts and vacumes. my stepdad was born with a small casecerable palsy because he was in a breeh postion and his mother refused a c section. I’m due in 2 days. My doctor does not want me to go over 41 weeks because of the scar tissue around my pelvis and the pain and pressure I have been having since week 20. I wasn’t even supoosed to be able to carry a child to full term because of the scaring. He is wanting to induce because my cervix will not ripen. I just want my baby delievered as safe as possible. I would rathr have a c section then the risk of a physical birth defect because I’m trying to be super woman. I am trying to hold off on the induction as long as possible but I know the posiblity of going on my own is low. I just think people need to be more open mnded. They came up with these inductions and pain meds for the benifit of babies and mothers not to hurt them. There is risk with anything and sometimes doctors do know what they are talking about. Even women who try and have home births end up having to go to the hospital and have c sections. Its no ones fault. But I don’t believe in putting your self or baby in danger. Sometimes your body doesn’t. Work. Sometimes the baby is too large for a petite woman. Sometimesa woman won’t dilate. Sometimes babies just don’t want to come out in a perfect postion. But don’t try and be super woman thinking your friends body done it you can too! Everyone is different

  22. Deb says:

    I shared a similar experience, 3 days of ‘labour’ due to hind waters breaking, very little progress despite finally ending up with 6 powerful contractions per 10 mins for 5 hours before I gave in and had an epidural. Only then did my baby get distressed and ended in emergency c-section 12 hours later. I did feel my body wasn’t ready at the time and realised some time later it must have been fighting back. Sorry to hear other people went through this too. I had a session of TIR (Traumatic Incident Reduction) which allowed me to have my realisation we (me and my body) weren’t ready and being bullied into giving birth. Up until then my body had always obeyed me and served me well. For months after the birth I think I punished myself over it but thanks to TIR we’re friends again and looking forward to trying for baby number two and fingers crossed a natural birth. Lots of respect to all you ladies.

  23. Danielle Shah says:

    I stumbled upon this when researching why (even at 41 weeks) I never dropped or dilated. I just kinda chalked it up to my son being 12 lbs and the size of a 3 month old. I tried being induced before cesarean and after 11 hours nothing had changed. It made me so sad and seriously messed up my body. I just wonder if there has been actual studies on women who just never dilate at all for whatever reason. I wish I had been able to do natural. But alas my doctor was not for letting me go much longer and I couldn’t stand being pregnant much longer. Thanks for the blog! 🙂

  24. stephanie rosales says:

    Well I was given pitocin but I was not told that their was a risk of my baby going into diatress! Which she did! Ugh I’m never using that again!

  25. sarane says:

    i had 3 c-sections. the first 2 i went 2 weeks over the due date and both over 20 hours of labor no dilation. I never dilated at all and i am wondering that i was not meant to deliver naturally. I’ve tried everything. I’m on my fourth preg. and i know i wont dilate. have u heard of women like me?

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