Preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks gestation) can have a major impact on a child’s development, and the earlier a child is born, the more severe that impact may be. Preterm birth often happens spontaneously, but there are a few risk factors that physicians and other healthcare providers look for to predict one’s risk. These include a history of preterm birth, and a diagnosed short cervix prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Cervical length is typically measured in the second trimester, between 16 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. There are two ways to measure cervical length: abdominal ultrasounds, and transvaginal ultrasounds. Of these, transvaginal ultrasounds are far more accurate for measuring cervical length, so this is the preferable method. However, transvaginal ultrasounds aren’t always performed as a matter of routine, so you may have to ask your healthcare provider to perform a transvaginal ultrasound specifically.
A short cervix diagnosis can be troubling, but there is a treatment that exists that can help women with this diagnosis greatly reduce their risk of delivering early. Vaginal progesterone treatments, applied daily, are shown to significantly delay delivery, and preterm birth, among women with this diagnosis.
Vaginal progesterone can only be prescribed to those with a diagnosed short cervix, and without a transvaginal ultrasound, you can’t know your cervical length for sure. Speak with your provider about a transvaginal ultrasound between 16 and 24 weeks, and if it does show that you have a short cervix, make sure to ask your doctor about vaginal progesterone supplementation.
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- Hee Joong Lee, Tae Chul Park, Errol R. Norwitz. “Management of Pregnancies with Cervical Shortening: A Very Short Cervix is a Very Big Problem.” Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2(2): 107-115. Spring 2009. Retrieved December 1 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2709324/.
- “Cervical Insufficiency and short cervix.” march of dimes. March of Dimes, August 2015. Retrieved December 1 2017. https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/cervical-insufficiency-and-short-cervix.aspx.