Is Having An Incompetent Cervix Dangerous While Pregnant?

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During pregnancy, as the baby grows and gets heavier, it imposes a pressure on the cervix. This pressure leads to dilation of cervix before the due date. This condition is referred as incompetent cervix or weakened cervix which may lead to a miscarriage or premature delivery. However this condition happens only in about 1 out of 100 pregnancies.

Pregnancy losses during the first trimester may be because of chromosomal abnormalities and during the Second trimester or later the losses may be as a result of an incompetent cervix.

What causes an incompetent or weakened cervix?

The weakening of cervix may be due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Previous surgery on the cervix
  • Damage during a difficult birth
  • Malformed cervix or uterus from a birth defect
  • Previous trauma to the cervix, such as a D&C
  • DES (Diethylstilbestrol) exposure

How to detect an incompetent cervix?

It is advised that women can have an early pregnancy test by ultrasound, if they are found to be susceptible to the factors causing incompetent cervix. Diagnosis can be made by the physician through a pelvic exam or by an ultrasound test. The ultrasound was found useful to measure the cervical opening or the length of the cervix.

How often does an incompetent cervix happen?

An incompetent or weakened cervix happens in about 1-2% of pregnancies. Studies reveal that about 25% of babies miscarried in the second trimester are mainly due to incompetent cervix.

What is the treatment for a weakened cervix?

The treatment for an incompetent cervix includes a procedure that sews the cervix closed to reinforce the weak cervix. This procedure is called a cerclage and is usually performed in the 14 to 16 weeks of pregnancy. Removal of the cerclage does not result in spontaneous delivery of the baby.

But woman are not eligible for a cerclage if:

  • There is increased irritation of the cervix
  • The cervix has dilated 4cm
  • Membranes have ruptured

Possible complications of cervical cerclage include uterine rupture, bladder rupture, maternal hemorrhage, cervical laceration, preterm labor and premature rupture of the membranes. However, since the likelihood of these risks are minimal, most health care providers feel that a cerclage is a life saving procedure that is worth the possible risks involved.