Cervical insufficiency, or incompetent cervix diagnosis, is a condition that arises from the cervical tissue being weak and causing a premature birth of the baby or a loss of pregnancy.
The cervix, i.e., the lower part of the uterus, is typically very firm and closed. After women become pregnant and the delivery date approaches, the cervix softens, dilates, and becomes shorter. When you are diagnosed with cervical insufficiency, the cervix becomes too soft too soon and begins to open causing premature births.
It is of the utmost importance to find high-quality obstetrics care in Boca Raton & Boynton Beach, FL. With Women’s Health Partners, you will most definitely be treated by experienced staff in world-class conditions.
This said cervical weakness is very hard to diagnose and treat. Still, we are bringing you all you need to know about an incompetent cervix so your baby is protected as much as possible during the pregnancy.
What Are the Causes of Cervical Weakness?
There are several causes that might affect the firmness of your cervix during pregnancy, and here are the most common ones:
- Previous cervical surgery
- Damages in the uterus of earlier experiences such as miscarriage or giving birth
- Abnormalities in the form of the uterus or the cervix itself
- Short cervix
- Taking a synthetic hormone to raise the success rate of the pregnancy (DES hormone)
Incompetent Cervix Symptoms
Although the symptoms of cervical insufficiency are not always visible, especially during the early pregnancy period, some women can feel discomfort and experience spotting during the second trimester. If you are wondering how to recognize the incompetent cervix symptoms after they appear, here are some examples that will help you:
- Feeling pressure in the cervical area
- Backache that you have not experienced before
- Light vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal cramps which are not too intense
- Vaginal discharge changes
Diagnosis of the Condition
Since this condition is not easily discovered, a doctor usually has to perform a pelvic exam and an ultrasound to establish an incompetent cervix diagnosis. A test called transvaginal ultrasound is primarily used in these cases, which helps the doctor measure the length and opening of the cervix by using a wand inserted into the vagina.
Unfortunately, no tests can be done before the pregnancy to predict if this condition will develop during the pregnancy.
Incompetent Cervix Treatment
When it comes to incompetent cervix treatment, there is not a variety of methods used. The ones that are used by doctors today are:
- Progesterone supplementation is advised when there is a history of premature birth, so weekly shots of the progesterone hormone are given to the patient during the second and third trimesters of the pregnancy.
- Cervical cerclage is a surgical method used from the 12th to the 14th week of pregnancy when the doctor suspects that you might experience premature birth. During the procedure, the cervix gets stitched, closed, and the sutures are removed during the last month of the pregnancy or during labor. This approach is not recommended for women carrying twins or more.
- Insertion of a pessary is an option that is still to be confirmed as an efficient way of dealing with cervical weakness. A pessary is a device that is inserted to help hold the uterus in place, but it also removes pressure put on the cervix.
- When cervical insufficiency is discovered too late in the pregnancy, doctors tend to recommend bed rest until the delivery date as the only treatment option.
Although it is not easy to diagnose and there are really not many ways of treating cervical insufficiency, we want to note that the success rate of the cerclage treatment is over 90%. One in every 100 pregnant women is diagnosed with this condition. Still, the treatment options generally offer high success rates, so make sure to consult your chosen medical professional about your options.
What Can I Do to Prevent This Condition?
Many experts claim that there are no prevention measures when it comes to an incompetent cervix, but there are still steps you can take as a possible precaution:
- Your prenatal visits schedule is of utmost importance when you are pregnant, and this will additionally help when it comes to cervix insufficiency.
- Repeated ultrasounds are recommended often when the patient has had a history of premature births so the doctor can monitor the length of the cervix. These are done every two weeks, from the 16th to the 24th week of your pregnancy.
- Aside from being a treatment method, cervical cerclage is a recommended “prevention” step by doctors before the cervix begins to open. It is referred to as prophylactic cerclage, and it is most often done before week 14 of the pregnancy.
- A healthy diet is essential during pregnancy, and the vital nutrients and supplementation such as folic acid, calcium, iron, prenatal vitamins, etc. will help keep your body healthy.
- Avoid gaining too much weight, but still, be mindful that gaining weight during pregnancy is normal and can actually help the baby’s growth and development.
- Quit smoking, drinking alcohol, or using any illegal opiates.
- Try to limit your sexual activity if there is a potential for an incompetent cervix diagnosis. This also includes putting limitations on the amount of physical activity you are having while being pregnant.
Risks and Complications
There are women who are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with cervical insufficiency than others. Some of the risk factors include specific abnormalities when it comes to the form of the cervix and the uterus, previous experiences with premature birth or miscarriage, some types of surgeries done in the past on the cervix, but also there is a genetic predisposition such as the Ehlers-Danlos syndrome which causes weakness of the cervix.
Basically, any abnormality or disorder which affects the protein making up our body’s connective tissues might be a risk factor for an incompetent cervix.
When it comes to complications this condition can cause, premature birth and miscarriage have been mentioned previously. There are some complications that are possible during the cervical cerclage procedure which are essential and should be listed here:
- Rupture of the uterus
- Cut or a tear on the cervix
- Internal bleeding
Make sure to have a talk with your chosen doctor prior to the procedure so you are aware of all the potential risks and complications and what the solutions might be.
We Are Here for You!
We completely understand that any type of complications or conditions which occur while you are pregnant brings additional stress and anxiety. Our goal is to elevate at least a part of that stress, so please feel free to contact our experts if you need any additional information or consultation or if you want to schedule an appointment to check the health of your cervix. We are here for you to offer support and guidance through your pregnancy, whatever the challenges might be.