A short cervix during pregnancy can be a problem for a small minority of women where the length of the cervix (area connecting the uterus to the vagina) is shorter than normal. This condition is one type of cervical abnormality.
Cervical abnormalities like cervical insufficiency or incompetence cause the cervix to thin or dilate before its time. Such problems with the cervix could mean that the pregnancy will be a high risk one, where there will be restrictions upon the activities of a woman while pregnant.
What is a short cervix?
Normally during a pregnancy, the cervix which is a tubular structure above the vagina at the mouth of the uterus becomes longer. However some women have a shorter cervix during pregnancy. Whereas it should be about 1.5 inches in length, some women may have a cervix that measures only about half an inch.
So when the cervix is shorter in length, the chances of it dilating or effacing early are higher. That means there are higher chances of premature labor and even late miscarriages. Simply put, the shorter the cervix, the greater the chances of going into premature labor and having a preterm birth.
Since there is really no screening procedure to detect a short cervix, it may not be diagnosed until after one or more miscarriages or early preterm births have already occurred. If such a risk is detected, a woman will be required to undergo transvaginal ultrasound procedures regularly from the 16th week of gestation. This will help to detect if the cervix is shortening or dilating too early.
What are the solutions for a short cervix during pregnancy?
Regular monitoring and undergoing transvaginal ultrasound procedures will help to detect the problem.
Many women may be advised bed rest in the later part of their pregnancy to prevent the baby putting too much pressure on the cervix. This could delay its thinning or effacement, and prevent premature labor.
There is a procedure called cerclage that can also help to prevent premature shortening or dilation of the cervix. This involves putting a stitch in the cervical area to help prevent an early birth. While this is not painful, sexual intercourse is not allowed. However this procedure is somewhat controversial and some practitioners question its efficacy as means for preventing miscarriage or premature birth.
Another option is to use vaginal progesterone when one is diagnosed as having a shorter cervix. This is thought to help prevent premature birth and few other complications as well.