you really shouldn't be feeling your own cervix, you could introduce a nasty infection or rupture your baby's membranes. and all cervixes feel different.
i tried feeling mine when i was 22 weeks and panicked because it felt soft so i called the maternity ward. the doctor there checked my cervix and said everything was fine but NOT to examine it again because of the reasons i stated above. and remember, all women's cervixes will feel unique, some will be softer, harder, longer or shorter than others, even during pregnancy.
Um before everyone jumps at poor Duffy, she wrote that she was TOLD her cervix was soft!!!
Plus, touching your cervix will do no harm at all, don't be afraid of your body. Poking, prodding and manipulating is not a good idea but touching is fine. If it wasn't then sex would be completely out of the question full stop!
And in answer to your question I believe the cervix has to soften and efface (thin) before it can dilate, although this is a sign things are heading in the right direction it can happen at any time in the weeks leading up to the birth. Unfortunately it isn't a reliable indicator of imminant action!
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