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Incompetent cervix

Incompetent cervix

Incompetent cervix

May 23, 2024

Incompetent cervix, also known as cervical insufficiency, is a condition in which the cervix is unable to maintain a pregnancy and may lead to premature birth. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina, and it typically remains closed during pregnancy to support and protect the developing foetus. Incompetent cervix occurs when the cervix is weakened and starts to open too early in the pregnancy, usually during the second trimester.

The diagnosis is often based on clinical history, physical examination, and cervical length measurement via ultrasound.

Transvaginal ultrasound is a common tool used to assess cervical length. A short cervix, measured by ultrasound, is associated with an increased risk of cervical insufficiency. A length of the cervix less than 25 mm before 24 weeks of gestation may be considered a risk factor for incompetent cervix The funnelling of internal os is another ultrasound finding.. The exact causes of incompetent cervix are not always clear, but several factors may contribute to its development. Some of these factors include:

  1. Structural abnormalities: Congenital or acquired structural issues with the cervix can contribute to incompetence. This may include abnormalities in the development of the cervix or damage caused by procedures such as cone biopsy or dilation and curettage (D&C).
  2. Uterine anomalies: Certain structural abnormalities in the uterus, such as a septate uterus, can affect the cervix's ability to stay closed during pregnancy.
  3. Previous cervical trauma: Surgical procedures on the cervix, such as cone biopsy or D&C, can lead to scarring and weaken the cervical tissue, making it more prone to opening prematurely.
  4. Hormonal influences: Changes in hormonal levels, particularly those related to progesterone, can affect the strength and integrity of the cervix. Hormonal imbalances may contribute to cervical insufficiency.
  5. Multiple pregnancies: Carrying more than one baby (twins, triplets, etc.) can put extra pressure on the cervix, increasing the risk of it opening too soon.
  6. Previous preterm birth: Women who have experienced preterm birth in previous pregnancies may be at an increased risk of incompetent cervix in subsequent pregnancies.
  7. Infections and inflammation: Infections of the reproductive organs or inflammation in the cervix may weaken the cervical tissue and contribute to incompetence.
  8. Genetic factors: Some cases of incompetent cervix may have a genetic component, and women with a family history of the condition may be at a higher risk.


     Management Options

  1. Cervical Cerclage: This is a surgical procedure where a stitch is placed around the cervix to provide additional support and prevent it from opening too early. Cerclage is often performed between 12 and 16 weeks of pregnancy.
  2. Progesterone Supplementation Progesterone supplementation has been recommended, as it has been suggested to help reduce the risk of preterm birth. Progesterone can be administered in different forms, such as injections, vaginal suppositories, or gel.
  3. Bed Rest: In the past, bed rest was commonly recommended for women with incompetent cervix. However, recent studies have questioned the effectiveness of strict bed rest and it is no longer routinely recommended. Limited activity or modified activity may be suggested based on individual cases.


  1. Close Monitoring: Regular and close monitoring of the pregnancy is essential for women with incompetent cervix. This may include more frequent ultrasounds to assess cervical length and overall foetal development.
  2. Hospitalization: In severe cases, or when there are signs of imminent preterm Labor, hospitalization may be considered. This allows for close monitoring and immediate intervention if necessary.
  3. Tocolytic Medications: These medications may be prescribed to delay preterm Labor. Tocolytics help to relax the uterine muscles and may be used temporarily to buy time for other interventions.

It's crucial to note that the management approach can vary from case to case, and decisions are often made based on the individual's medical history, the severity of the condition, and other factors. Women with incompetent cervix should work closely with their healthcare providers to develop an appropriate and personalized management plan. Regular prenatal care and communication with the healthcare team are essential to optimize outcomes for both the mother and the baby.

Progesterone therapy vs cervical cerclage or both

Progesterone therapy and cervical cerclage are two different approaches used in managing cervical insufficiency, a condition where the cervix opens prematurely during pregnancy.

Progesterone therapy involves the administration of progesterone, a hormone that helps maintain the uterine lining and support pregnancy. It can be administered via different routes such as vaginal suppositories, injections, or oral medication. Progesterone therapy is often used to reduce the risk of preterm birth in women who have a history of preterm delivery or who are at high risk for preterm birth due to other factors.

On the other hand, cervical cerclage is a surgical procedure where the cervix is stitched closed to provide mechanical support and prevent it from opening prematurely. This procedure is typically performed in women who have a history of cervical insufficiency or who are at risk for it based on factors such as a short cervix detected on ultrasound.

While both progesterone therapy and cervical cerclage are used to manage cervical insufficiency and reduce the risk of preterm birth, they are not interchangeable. Progesterone therapy is usually recommended as a preventive measure or in conjunction with other treatments, while cervical cerclage is a more direct intervention for cases where the cervix is deemed weak or at risk of premature opening. . Though after cervical cerclage, we usually prescribe vaginal progesterone. 

Ultimately, the decision to use progesterone therapy, cervical cerclage, or a combination of both depends on various factors such as the individual's medical history, the severity of cervical insufficiency, and the recommendations of healthcare provider. It's important to note that sometimes the exact cause remains unknown, and incompetent cervix may be idiopathic, meaning it occurs without an identifiable cause. If a woman has a history of incompetent cervix or other risk factors, close monitoring during pregnancy and preventive measures, such as cervical cerclage may be considered to reduce the risk of complications.

Consulting with a healthcare provider is crucial for proper diagnosis and management based on an individual's medical history and circumstancesers. It's essential for individuals to discuss their options thoroughly with their healthcare team to determine the most appropriate course of action for their specific situation.                                       



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