A healthy baby is the goal of every pregnancy. Certain parts of the body play an important role to ensure an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery. But in some cases, certain anatomical issues of the mother can make pregnancy and delivery complicated. Cervical length is one such feature.
Cervix is the lower part of the uterus that appears like narrow tube which opens to the vagina. Cervical length refers to the length of the tube and the length of the cervical opening. This opening is too small, just enough to allow the menstrual blood and sperm to pass through.
Before pregnancy, the cervix remains rigid. During pregnancy the cervix is closed and sealed with the mucus plug in order to avoid the entry of any infection to the womb and the growing baby.
As pregnancy progresses, the cervix loses its rigidity and gradually starts to open, shorten, get thinner and softer so that the baby can pass easily through the birth canal during labor. This process is called effacing (decreasing the length) and dilating (opening).
Normal cervical length is important for an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery. This is because, shorter the cervical length, higher the risk of preterm delivery. Also if the cervical length decreases in early pregnancy, the chances of any infection progressing to the womb goes up and this can trigger uterine contractions which can result in preterm delivery.
No. Short cervix and cervical insufficiency are both different. Short cervix refers to the decreased cervical length. Whereas, cervical insufficiency is a condition in which the cervix starts to efface and dilate too early in the pregnancy without any signs of contractions or pain. This happens irrespective of the length of the cervix, mainly due to weak cervical tissues.
The cervical length during the first trimester is entirely based on the maternal anatomical feature or due to a previous cervical surgery. The other factors that influence the cervical length during pregnancy include:
Transvaginal cervical scan gives a clear view and correct measurement of the cervical length. As explained earlier, the cervix appears like a tube with one end at the top of the vagina and the other end inside the uterus. The opening into the vagina is called external OS and the opening into the uterus is called internal OS. The length of the cervix is measured from the internal OS to the external OS. The length is generally taken down in centimeters or in millimeters.
No. The transvaginal scan for measuring the cervical length is not a part of a routine pregnancy test. This is usually performed on women with high risk of preterm birth, usually before the 16th week of gestation. This is usually recommended for:
With a short cervix, the expecting mother has a higher risk of preterm delivery. To prevent this, watch out for any of the following signs, especially before the 24th week of gestation.
As we already know, these are the signs of early labor. Seek immediate medical attention. The doctor will closely monitor you and your baby. He will do a pelvic exam to check your cervix. Your doctor may take the following steps: