Cervical Length During Pregnancy – Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

Written by Chhandita Chakravarty
Last Updated on

Once you become pregnant, your body will be prodded and probed a number of times. And many times, you’ll hear the term cervical length. But what exactly does this term mean?

Ultrasound scans are a common feature during pregnancies. These scans can be a source of relief and joy. Watching your little ones heart flicker on the screen can be a magical sight. But the real function of an ultrasound scan is to give your doctor information. This information is what helps the experts keep your pregnancy safe and healthy.

One of the things an ultrasound scan measures is your cervical length. If that sounds like Greek to you, let us help make things a bit clearer.

What Is Cervical Length During Pregnancy?

Not every body is biology major. And the human anatomy can stump even the best of us. But during pregnancy, it is important to be aware of all that is going on inside your body.

The lower part or opening of the uterus that connects with the vagina is called the cervix. The cervical length is the opening of the cervix. Now this length does change over the period of a pregnancy. The length gradually decreases, and finally the cervix opens completely to give birth (1).

But in some women, the cervix may soften and open prematurely. This can lead to premature labor and birth.

[ Read: Why Does A Doctor Recommend Bed Rest During Pregnancy ]

What Causes Premature Change In Cervical Length During Pregnancy?

There are a number of factors that can lead to a premature decrease in cervical length, including:

  • Anatomical differences between women
  • A uterus that’s stretched beyond its capacity
  • Pregnancy complications like bleeding
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Incompetent cervix

With regular ultrasound scans, your doctor can identify if you are at risk of premature labor and help prevent it without too many interventions (2).

You don’t even need a vaginal ultrasound scan to measure your cervical length during pregnancy. A trans-abdominal scan will suffice (3).

Signs And Symptoms Of Premature Labor

If the cervical length decreases, chances of premature labor go up manifold. Here are the signs and symptoms that you should watch out for:

  • Frequent contractions
  • Backache that doesn’t go away
  • Vaginal spotting,
  • Pelvic pressure

If you notice these symptoms, rush to your doctor. He will do a pelvic exam to check your cervix. He will then do an ultrasound to measure your cervical length. If your cervix measures less than 2.5 cm and shows ‘funneling’, your doctor may take steps to prevent premature birth of your baby (4).

[ Read: Causes Of Premature Labor ]

What Will The Doctor Do

If you are in active labor, there is not much your doctor can do to prevent your baby’s premature birth. But if you are not yet in labor and meet some criteria, your doctor can take steps to keep your baby where she belongs until birth – inside your womb!

1. Hormonal Intervention:

Progesterone is used at times to prevent premature birth. This entails placing progesterone, or silicone pessary around the cervix.

2. Cerclage:

If your pregnancy hasn’t yet reached the magical 24-week mark, your doctor may recommend placing a cerclage. This involves stitching the cervix closed with sutures. If you have a history of premature birth, this may be the plan your doctor offers. There is controversy about the use of cerclage as they can cause uterine infection and cervical irritation. But experts agree that the benefits of this procedure outweigh the risks (5).

3. Bed Rest:

Your doctor may also recommend bed rest along with other treatment options to prevent premature birth of your baby.

Now you know what cervical length means. But don’t worry about it. Your doctor will ask for regular ultrasounds if he suspects that you are at risk of going into premature labor.

Most importantly, learn to trust your body. It was designed to carry a baby to term and give birth. If it does need a little assistance, your doctor and medical science will be right there to lend a helping hand!

Does all the medical jargon confuse you when you read your medical reports? Did you know about cervical length scan? Tell us in the comments section below!

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