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What Is Cervical Incompetence?

Your cervix plays an important role in your reproductive health, acting as sort of a gatekeeper to your uterus. Once your cervix allows sperm to pass through and you become pregnant, it closes off to keep your womb protected.

With cervical incompetence, there’s a problem with this barrier, and the results can be serious. Also called cervical insufficiency, this issue only affects about 1% of pregnancies, but it’s responsible for up to 25% of second trimester pregnancy losses.

As experts in high risk obstetrics, Dr. Fernando Otero and the team here at Women’s Clinic of the Rio Grande Valley, want to focus on this uncommon, but important, pregnancy issue in this month’s blog post. 

The role your cervix plays in in your pregnancy

We want to kick off this discussion by reviewing the role that your cervix plays under normal circumstances during a pregnancy.

Your cervix is formed by the lower end of your uterus and it connects to the top of your vagina. When you first become pregnant, your cervix closes firmly, and we want its length to measure around 30 millimeters or more.

During your pregnancy, your cervix gradually softens and, just before you go into labor, the organ decreases in length and opens up to allow for delivery.

Cervical insufficiency explained

With cervical incompetence, your cervix softens too quickly, shortens too early, and/or opens too soon. When this occurs, the risks for premature birth and miscarriage are quite high if the problem goes undetected.

There are several reasons why women may have cervical incompetence, such as:

Far less commonly, a genetic disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can lead to cervical incompetence.

Can anything be done about cervical incompetence?

If you have a history of cervical incompetence or your risks are high, we can monitor your cervix through ultrasound during your pregnancy. If we want to be proactive, we can turn to a cervical cerclage, a procedure in which we stitch your cervix closed until your baby comes to term.

This approach is highly effective, and we prefer to perform it around the 12- to 14-week mark. We do not recommend cervical cerclage if you’re carrying multiple babies or if you’re already dilated too far.

Another potential treatment is progesterone supplementation, which can strengthen your cervix during your pregnancy.

If you’re at all concerned about cervical incompetence or you have more questions, we invite you to contact one of our offices in McAllen or Edinburg, Texas, to set up a consultation.

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