Incompetent Cervix

What is an incompetent cervix?

An incompetent cervix is a condition that causes your cervix to start opening at 4 to 6 months of pregnancy. The cervix is the bottom part of the uterus. Normally, the cervix remains closed for the full 9 months of pregnancy. An incompetent cervix begins to thin and widen without any pain or contractions. The amniotic fluid sac may bulge down into the opening of your cervix until it breaks. This can cause a miscarriage or premature delivery or your baby.

What causes an incompetent cervix?

The cause of your incompetent cervix may not be known. The following are common causes:

  • Changes in hormones during pregnancy

  • An abnormal cervix or uterus

  • Damage to the cervix, such as during surgery or after a difficult delivery of a baby

  • Certain medicines, such as diethylstilbestrol (DES)

What are the signs and symptoms of an incompetent cervix?

  • Backache

  • Discomfort or pressure in your lower abdomen

  • Gush of warm liquid from your vagina

  • Mucus-like vaginal discharge

  • Pain when you urinate

  • A lump in your vagina

How is an incompetent cervix diagnosed?

  • A pelvic exam lets your caregiver see your cervix and check the size and shape of your uterus and ovaries. Your caregiver will put a tool called a speculum into your vagina to open it. This exam may also be called a vaginal exam.

  • An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of your cervix, uterus, and ovaries on a monitor.

How is an incompetent cervix treated?

You may need to rest in bed during the last several months of your pregnancy. You may need to rest on your left side most of the time. This will help prevent premature labor or delivery. You may also need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be used to prevent or stop labor contractions.

  • A pessary is a plastic or rubber device that is placed into your vagina to elevate and support the cervix.

  • Surgery called cervical cerclage may be needed to tie the cervix closed.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You have a fever.

  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.

  • You have lower abdominal or back pain.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have fluid draining from your vagina.

  • You have foul-smelling discharge coming from your vagina.

  • You have regular contractions.

  • You have vaginal bleeding.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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