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Every pregnant woman wants a healthy baby. The cervical length is one of the factors that can cause complications during pregnancy. This article will tell you everything about cervical length and how it can affect your pregnancy.
What is Cervical Length?
The cervix is a three-centimetre long canal that connects the uterus to the vagina. The cervical length is simply the length of the canal, including the cervical opening. In pregnant women, the cervix needs to be of a specific length for the growth of a healthy baby.
Why is the Cervical Length Important?
The cervix is almost inflexible until you get pregnant. Once you conceive, it becomes softer and shorter, loses muscle tone, and dilates. This is known as cervical effacement, which allows the foetus to fit inside the cervical canal while being born. However, if your cervix is too short, you may be at risk of preterm labour and all the complications that come along with premature birth.
Are Having a Short Cervix and Cervical Insufficiency Related?
No, short cervix and cervical insufficiency are totally different things. A short cervix merely refers to the length of the cervical canal. Cervical insufficiency, on the other hand, refers to the premature cervical effacement and dilation that happen when the muscles are unable to remain firm and strong. Cervical insufficiency can lead to a short cervix.
Factors That Influence the Cervical Length
Several factors influence cervical length. Some of them are:
Some women have a short cervix. That’s how their bodies are built.
In multiple pregnancies, the uterus stretches more than its capacity. It pushes downwards on the cervix, reducing its length.
Cervical insufficiency or an incompetent cervix is a condition caused due to the lack of cervical muscle strength, which can influence cervical length.
How is the Length of the Cervix Measured?
An ultrasound transvaginal scan can help to measure the cervical length. Ideally, the cervical length in the 24th week should be about 3.5 – 5 cm, whereas, at 28 weeks, it should be 3.5 – 4 cm. At 32 weeks, the cervical length is 3 – 3.5 cm. A cervix shorter than 2.5 cm increases the likelihood of preterm birth.
Is Measuring the Cervical Length a Must?
Doctors usually recommend the cervical length scan to women carrying twins or multiples or having a medical history of premature birth and miscarriage.
Tips to Deal With a Short Cervix
Here are a few things you should do if your cervix is too short:
1. Bed Rest
Bed rest shouldn’t be compromised on. Lying down prevents the uterus and the foetus from bearing down on the cervix, thus preventing it from early effacement.
This is a minor surgery in which your doctor will stitch your cervix shut with a couple of sutures. The procedure is quick and performed under anaesthesia. It is done for women who have had prior preterm deliveries. Some doctors believe that cerclages can lead to infection and inflammation, but these can be controlled with the right medications.
3. Hormonal Treatment
In this treatment, your doctor will place the pregnancy hormone, progesterone, in the cervical area. Progesterone can help in relaxation of the uterus.
A silicone device known as a pessary can be used to support the cervix, keeping it closed shut.
It’s important to understand the changes your body goes through during pregnancy. Cervical length plays a major role during pregnancy, so it is essential to stay informed about it. If you have any concerns about the cervical length during pregnancy, consult your gynaecologist.