What is incompetent cervix?
An incompetent cervix is also called cervical insufficiency. It is a condition that causes your cervix to start opening at 4 to 6 months of pregnancy. The cervix is the bottom part of the uterus. Normally, the cervix remains closed for the full 9 months of pregnancy. An incompetent cervix may begin to thin and widen without any pain or contractions. The amniotic fluid sac may bulge down into the opening of your cervix until it breaks. This can cause a miscarriage or premature delivery of your baby.
How common is incompetent cervix?
Incompetent cervix happens in only about 1 out of 100 pregnancies. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of incompetent cervix?
The common symptoms of incompetent cervix are:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic pressure
- Mucus-like vaginal discharge
- Frequent urination
- Gush of warm liquid from your vagina
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes incompetent cervix?
The cause of your incompetent cervix may not be known. The following are common causes:
- Changes in hormones during pregnancy
- An abnormal cervix or uterus
- Damage to the cervix, such as during surgery or after a difficult delivery of a baby
- Certain medicines, such as diethylstilbestrol (DES)
What increases my risk for incompetent cervix?
There are many risk factors for incompetent cervix, such as:
- Congenital conditions. Uterine abnormalities and genetic disorders affecting a fibrous type of protein that makes up your body’s connective tissues (collagen) might cause an incompetent cervix. Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic form of the hormone estrogen, before birth also has been linked to cervical insufficiency.
- Cervical trauma. If you experienced a cervical tear during a previous labor and delivery, you could have an incompetent cervix. Other surgical procedures involving the cervix, such as those to deal with an abnormal Pap test, may cause damage that contributes to cervical insufficiency.
- Dilation and curettage (D&C). This procedure is used to diagnose or treat various uterine conditions — such as heavy bleeding — or to clear the uterine lining after a miscarriage or abortion. On rare occasions it may cause structural damage to the cervix.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is incompetent cervix diagnosed?
A pelvic exam lets your healthcare provider see your cervix and check the size and shape of your uterus.
An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of your cervix, uterus, and ovaries on a monitor. Your healthcare provider will be able to measure the length of your cervix. He or she will also look for other signs that your body is preparing for early birth.
How is incompetent cervix treated?
You may need to rest in bed during the last several months of your pregnancy. You may need to rest on your left side most of the time. This may help prevent premature labor or delivery. You may also need any of the following:
- Medicines may be used to prevent or stop labor contractions.
- A pessary is a plastic or rubber device that is placed into your vagina to elevate and support the cervix.
- Surgery called cervical cerclage may be needed to stitch the cervix closed until you are closer to delivery.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage incompetent cervix?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with incompetent cervix:
- If you have an incompetent cervix, your health care provider might recommend restricting sexual activity or limiting certain physical activities.
- Bed rest might be prescribed in some cases, although it isn’t a proven remedy for preventing premature birth.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
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