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What Is Cervical Incompetence and What Can Be Done About It?

What Is Cervical Incompetence and What Can Be Done About It?

Cervical incompetence occurs in one out of every 100 pregnancies, and it can end in heartbreaking pregnancy loss because in many cases there are no signs of a problem. That said, there are steps that we can take to prevent the unthinkable.

Here at Women’s Clinic of the Rio Grande Valley, our team of obstetrics specialists, with Dr. Fernando Otero at the helm, wants to do everything in our power to ensure that you have a successful pregnancy. While pregnancies can be unpredictable, with close monitoring and preventive steps through our high-risk obstetrics services, we can often mitigate problems like cervical incompetence.

Here’s a look at what this condition is and the steps we can take to prevent cervical incompetence from prematurely ending your pregnancy.

Cervical incompetence — what we know and don’t know

Under normal circumstances, your cervix — the lower part of your uterus which opens into your vagina — remains firmly shut. Toward the end of your pregnancy, this tissue begins to soften and dilate when your child is ready to greet the world.

With cervical incompetence, your cervix opens too early, and this event often comes with no warning, only being diagnosed after a heatbreaking miscarriage.

There are several reasons why women are affected by cervical insufficiency, such as previous surgery, structural abnormalities, or damage to your uterus from previous pregnancies. Unfortunately, cervical incompetence can also develop outside of these circumstances for no obvious reasons.

Monitoring your cervix

As part of your standard prenatal care, we closely observe your cervix to check for signs of early dilation as a matter of course. If we know of any issues that may lead to cervical insufficiency or you’ve experienced the problem before, we will check more frequently. When we say check, we’re referring to performing both a pelvic exam and an ultrasound.

This vigilant monitoring is important, as most women don’t feel any symptoms of cervical incompetence that warn of a developing problem.

Treating cervical incompetence

If we detect premature changes in your cervix and suspect that cervical incompetence may be an issue, we can turn to a minimally invasive technique called a cerclage to help strengthen your cervix.

With a cerclage, we place a suture in your cervix, typically between 12 and 14 weeks, and then we remove the suture toward the end of your pregnancy, around week 36 or 37.

This technique is very successful in helping your cervix to hold up through your pregnancy, but we don’t recommend it for women who are carrying multiple babies or for cervical incompetence that we detect late in the pregnancy. In these instances, bed rest is often the best way to carry your baby (or babies) as long as you can.

If you’ve had a history of cervical incompetence, you meet any of the risk factors, or you have more questions, please feel free to contact the team at one of our offices in McAllen or Edinburg, Texas, for a consultation.

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