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Doctors define a cervical insufficiency as one that is weak and can open well before your baby is due.
Your cervix is a tunnel-like opening at the bottom of your uterus.
A healthy cervix stays long and tightly closed until your labor begins. When you're ready to give birth, your cervix thins out, shortens, and dilates (opens) so your baby can pass through.
With cervical insufficiency, it dilates too early. This happens in about 1 out of every 100 pregnancies.
It may cause miscarriage in your 2nd or 3rd trimester or premature delivery.
A cervical insufficiency is one or both of these:
An abnormally short cervix or one that is weak might be due to:
Many times, doctors don't know the cause of cervical insufficiency.
If you had a previous pregnancy loss due to cervical insufficiency, there's up to a 30% chance it may happen again.
But, in a first pregnancy, most women don't know if they have this problem.
And doctors don't routinely check for it during your prenatal visits unless you have risk factors such as:
As your unborn baby grows, their weight presses against your cervix. That can cause a cervical insufficiency to open even without contractions.
Left untreated, it increases your risk of pregnancy loss or early labor.
You can't prevent this condition, but there are ways of managing the risks it creates, as discussed below.
It's crucial to get routine prenatal care so your doctor can watch for any changes in your cervix. They can also refer you to a team of high-risk pregnancy specialists if needed.
If you're at risk, there are tests to diagnose it and methods that can help you have a healthy pregnancy.
Many women with this condition don't have symptoms.
But you might have:
If you have any heavy bleeding or cramping, call your doctor and then go to the ER.
Your doctor can diagnose this condition with:
Your doctor will watch your cervix carefully with ultrasounds or pelvic exams and decide if you need any treatment.
There are 2 treatments that can prevent your cervix from dilating too early, so you can carry your baby to term.
With a cervical cerclage, your doctor goes in through your vagina and stitches your cervix closed. It helps strengthen your cervix, so it's less likely to shorten and dilate.
This is outpatient surgery. You'll get medicine so you won't feel any pain during the surgery.
Your doctor can do a cervical cerclage early in your 2nd trimester. They'll remove the stitches when you're about 36 weeks pregnant and it's safe to have your baby.
You can't have this treatment if:
Progesterone is a hormone that helps your uterus grow during your pregnancy. It also prevents contractions from starting.
If you're carrying only one baby, taking progesterone supplements can reduce your risk of having a miscarriage or premature labor.
Your doctor might prescribe progesterone until you're 36 weeks pregnant.
It comes in the form of: