The cervix is the opening to the uterus (womb) that sits at the top of the vagina (birth canal). It has the ability to open, shorten and get thinner and softer so that your baby can pass through the birth canal during labor and birth.
An Incompetent cervix is also known as a weak or insufficient cervix. This means that the cervix dilates (opens) too early during pregnancy usually without pain or contractions. You feel contractions when the muscles of your uterus get tight and then relax as this aids pushing out the baby during labor.
Cervical Incompetence in women is one of the main reasons for infertility as it occurs during the 2nd semester of pregnancy leading to premature birth and miscarriage. However, an incompetent cervix happens in only about 1 out of 100 pregnancies.
There are a number of conditions that can cause an incompetent cervix.
- Having a short cervix
- Cervical trauma: due to some surgical procedures such as D & C (dilatation and curettage from a miscarriage. Also damage during a difficult birth.
- Cervical surgery: such that impairs the normal control of muscles
- Previous history of miscarriage or premature labour
- Uterine abnormalities and genetic disorder
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic form of hormone oestrogen has been found to cause changes in the cervix
Signs & Symptoms
Most times, cervical insufficiency is asymptomatic i.e. you may not have any signs. However, you may detect early with the following signs
- Mild discomfort or spotting over a course of several days or week between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- A sensation of pressure in the pelvic region
- Non-specific low backache
- Mild Abdominal cramps
- Light vaginal bleeding or discharge
- History of painless cervical dilation after the first semester
- Transvaginal ultrasonography
Consequences of Cervical Incompetence
- Premature rupture of membrane
- Premature onset of labour pain
- Premature birth of the baby
Prevention of Cervical Incompetence
If you happen to be at risk of developing cervical incompetence due to any of the above risk factor, there is need to see a doctor for a number of intervention.
- Cervical cerclage: A preventive and therapeutic procedure performed before mid – second trimester that provide support against the pressure of the developing baby.
- Limit physical mobility to minimal during this period
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Seek regular prenatal care and
- Avoid risky substances i.e. you need to stop smoking and use of illegal drugs and alcohol.