Although cervical incompetence is relatively uncommon, it can have a devastating impact, causing affected women to lose their pregnancies during the second trimester. If you’re expecting or planning to start your family, you may be wondering if you’re at risk for cervical incompetence and what to do if you’re diagnosed with the condition.
At Darin Swainston, MD. FACOG, gynecological surgeon Dr. Darin Swainston and OB/GYN Daniel Richards, DO are committed to helping women in Las Vegas, Nevada, have safe, healthy pregnancies. As part of our commitment, we offer comprehensive gynecological and obstetric services, include abdominal cerclage for women suffering from an incompetent cervix.
Read on to learn if you’re at risk for cervical incompetence and how you can keep your baby safe if you’ve been diagnosed with this condition.
What is cervical incompetence?
Located at the top of your vagina, your cervix serves as the entryway to your uterus. Before you get pregnant, the cervix is firm and closed. As your pregnancy progresses, your cervix softens gradually, lengthening and opening to prepare for childbirth.
Some women have a condition called cervical incompetence, or cervical insufficiency. When you have an incompetent cervix, the cervical tissues are weakened and can open too soon, resulting in preterm birth or miscarriage.
Am I at risk for cervical incompetence?
Although cervical insufficiency isn’t common, affecting only 1% of pregnancies in America, it is responsible for over one-quarter of second-trimester miscarriages. Many women who experience cervical incompetence had no idea they were at risk.
While it’s impossible to prevent an incompetent cervix, knowing your risk factors can help reduce your chances of miscarriage by encouraging early treatment. The following conditions increase your risk for cervical insufficiency:
- Previous cervical trauma, such as a prior dilation and curettage (D&C), cervical surgery, or injury during childbirth
- Certain congenital conditions, such as an abnormally shaped cervix or uterus
- Prior miscarriage or premature birth in the second trimester
- Certain genetic conditions or disorders, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- Exposure before birth to DES (diethylstilbestrol), a synthetic estrogen
If you have one or more of these risk factors, it’s essential to seek medical attention as early as possible to avoid miscarriage or preterm birth. Early prenatal visits with Dr. Richards or Dr. Swainston help your provider monitor your health and the health of your baby.
What are the treatment options for cervical incompetence?
Once Dr. Swainston or Dr. Richards determine you have a high risk for cervical incompetence, they make plans to monitor your pregnancy closely using ultrasound technology during the first and second trimesters.
A procedure called transabdominal cerclage (TAC) is the gold standard in treating cervical incompetence, and it is typically performed before pregnancy or in the first trimester. Your provider makes a small incision in your lower abdomen and places a woven band high on your cervix.
The band is made of synthetic material and provides support to the cervix, stopping it from opening during pregnancy and preventing miscarriage. TAC has a success rate of over 99% in preventing pregnancy loss, even for women with the most challenging cases of cervical insufficiency.
Ready to learn more about cervical incompetence and if TAC could be the treatment method for you? Contact Dr. Swainston or Dr. Richards at our Las Vegas office or request an appointment online today.