Incompetent cervix is one of the many conditions a woman should watch out for when carrying a child.
Also referred to as cervical insufficiency, this condition happens when the muscle fibres of the cervical tissues are weak, which can lead to preterm labour or miscarriage.
The cervix is the narrow tubular part at the end of the uterus, near the vagina. It is like an entryway that slightly opens up to allow sperm to enter the uterus during ovulation or to ease out menstrual blood during your period.
However, in the early stages of pregnancy, the cervix tightens or closes to ensure the baby’s growth inside the uterus. Then, it softens and opens up (dilates) during childbirth.
When a woman has incompetent cervix, it may not be able to hold the baby’s weight. If not managed properly, the cervix may soften and loosen up earlier than the delivery date.
Causes of incompetent cervix
Although the specific cause of incompetent cervix is still unknown, there are several conditions that are linked to it:
- Has abnormally formed uterus or cervix
- Has experienced premature birth or miscarriage
- Has experienced cervical insufficiency in previous pregnancy
- Has had multiple pregnancy
- Has had late-term abortion
The following are also risk factors for incompetent cervix:
- Has been exposed to DES (diethylstilbestrol), which is a drug used to women to prevent miscarriage between the 1930s and 1970s.
- Has experienced serious trauma to the cervix or to the uterus
- Has undergone previous cervical surgeries.
What are the signs and symptoms of incompetent cervix?
Likewise, there is no clear sign to predict an incompetent cervix. However, there may be symptoms that pregnant women can watch out for:
- Constant pressure in the pelvic area
- Lower backache
- Mild cramps
- Increased vaginal discharge and changes in its color and smell
- Spotting or light bleeding
Treatment of incompetent cervix
Inform your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. You may be asked to undergo a procedure like transvaginal ultrasound to check on your cervix.
When diagnosed with cervical insufficiency, the doctor may advise an emergency procedure called cerclage. The weak cervix will be sewn back to its closed position to prevent the baby from slipping out.
Sometimes incompetent pregnancy is diagnosed significantly late during pregnancy. In this case, the doctor may recommend bed rest until childbirth.
Complications related to incompetent cervix
Aside from premature birth and miscarriage, the following complications may be linked to incompetent cervix because of cerclage:
- Rupture or sudden bursting of the uterus
- Cervical laceration
- Internal bleeding
While there’s no way to prevent an incompetent cervix, you can do the following to prevent complications such as preterm labour or miscarriage:
Eat a balanced diet. During pregnancy, make sure you get enough nutrients such as vitamins, calcium, and iron from the food that you eat. Remember, however, to eat in moderation to avoid high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Don’t forget to do light exercises. Also, avoid smoking and drinking alcohol as it can affect not only your health but your baby’s as well.
Avoid stress. Try to relax with light massage using pregnancy-safe oils.
Visit your doctor regularly. Prenatal care is extra important if you suspect that you have incompetent cervix because the doctor needs to closely monitor you and your child’s health.
Once a woman is diagnosed with incompetent cervix, she is likely to experience the same condition in her following pregnancy. It is better to consult the doctor about how to plan for a safe and healthy pregnancy if you want to conceive another child.
Original Publisher: theAsianparent