If the cervix is shortened, this diagnosis can cause panic among expectant mothers. During pregnancy, the cervix performs an extremely important task.
It closes off the amniotic cavity with a mucus plug at the bottom and thus ensures that no germs or bacteria enter the uterus that could harm the unborn baby. Find out here what to look out for now.
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What Is The Importance And Function Of The Cervix?
The cervix, or simply cervix for short, is the lower third of the uterus and connects the uterine cavity and vagina. At its lower end is the external cervix, which protrudes into the upper part of the vagina.
The cervix is lined on the inside with a mucous membrane. This forms what is called cervical mucus, a tough mucus that seals the cervix to the outside so that bacteria cannot enter the uterus. On infertile days, the cervical mucus also forms a barrier against sperm.
Only when ovulation approaches do it become permeable to sperm so that the mature egg can be fertilized. During pregnancy, the cervix is tightly closed over the cervix, keeping the baby in place. The cervix has a standard length of about four to five centimeters.
Only shortly before birth does it widen due to the pressure of the baby and shorten to allow the cervix to open. Just before the baby comes, it shortens so much that it almost disappears.
This is normal because it is the only way the baby’s head will fit through it at birth. However, if the cervix shortens prematurely to a length of fewer than 2.5 centimeters, it can be dangerous.
How Long Should The Cervix Be?
This question cannot be answered in a blanket way, because cervical length varies greatly from individual to individual. Some women have a very long cervix, others a relatively short one. In principle, however, a length of between three and five centimeters is considered normal.
As long as the cervix does not fall below the 2.5cm limit during pregnancy, there is usually nothing to worry about. However, if the values are lower than this before the 35th week of pregnancy, there is a high risk of premature birth, which is why the pregnant woman should be closely monitored in this case.
It is, therefore, best if your gynecologist checks your cervix length right at the beginning of your pregnancy. This way, it can be determined later whether your cervix has shortened or was perhaps always particularly short.
You should not go crazy because of a few millimeters difference. Depending on the position of the baby and the amount of urine in the bladder, there may be small deviations in the measurements.
If The Cervix Is Shortened – Possible Causes
As a person affected, you naturally wonder what causes lie behind this complication and whether there are any risk factors. In many cases, however, no clear cause for a shortened cervix can be found.
Nevertheless, some risk factors can be considered as causes.
- Multiple pregnancy
- Too much amniotic fluid
- Weakness of the connective tissue
Depending on the cause, appropriate treatment should be initiated. However, you should always take it easy during pregnancy, especially if your cervix is shortened.
You should therefore avoid heavy lifting and strenuous work at all costs during this time.
Possible Complications: Cervical Insufficiency And Co.
A shortened cervix alone is often no cause for concern. Many women still make it to the expected delivery date with a lot of physical care. However, if premature labor or infections occur in addition to the shortening of the cervix, there is a risk of cervical insufficiency.
In this dreaded complication, the cervical canal is so weakened that it can no longer hold the cervix closed. As a result, the cervix opens even before the 38th week of pregnancy.
Cervical insufficiency can occur when the growing baby and uterus put a lot of pressure on the cervix. If there is also infection or weakness of the connective tissue, or if the expectant mother suffers from severe stress, the cervix may no longer be able to withstand all this.
Cervical insufficiency is one of the most common causes of preterm birth. Preterm labor can also cause the cervix to open too early. A shortened cervix can trigger, or promote, these preterm contractions.
Note: So-called practice contractions can also occur during pregnancy. In contrast to real contractions, these only serve to prepare the body for the upcoming birth.
How Can The Doctor Tell That The Cervix Is Shortened?
With the help of ultrasound examinations during pregnancy, the cervix length can be determined almost to the millimeter. This measurement is part of every preventive check-up with the gynecologist. In addition to ultrasound, the doctor will probably also palpate the cervix.
It is important to attend routine examinations regularly. There are no symptoms by which you can detect a shortening of the cervix. However, if you see your gynecologist regularly, he or she will be able to tell immediately if something is wrong and take the necessary measures.
How Is Cervical Shortening Treated?
The treatment of a shortened cervix depends on whether it is only the cervix that is shortened, or whether there are additional conditions such as infections or preterm labor. As a rule, cervical shortening, if it occurs alone, is treated only if it is very drastic.
In many cases, expectant mothers can reduce the risk of premature birth themselves with the help of some behavioral rules. The doctor often prescribes magnesium as a supportive measure. The magnesium supplements can prevent further shortening of the cervix. However, in worrying cases, surgical intervention may be considered.
In cases of very severe shortening to a length of fewer than 1.5 centimeters, most doctors place a so-called cerclage. This involves enclosing the cervix with a special band or ring to prevent the premature opening of the cervix. This is done surgically and under general or spinal anesthesia.
With the help of a cerclage, premature birth can be prevented very effectively. Shortly before delivery, the cervical protection is of course removed again. Sometimes a complete cervical closure is performed, in which the cervix is sutured.
In the case of very extreme cervical shortening, inpatient hospitalization may even be appropriate
If not only is the cervix shortened, but there are also infections that cause preterm labor or cervical insufficiency, it is imperative that action be taken to prevent preterm birth. Preterm labor, for example, can be inhibited with appropriate medications.
This procedure is also known as tocolysis. In the case of infection, treatment with antibiotics may also be necessary. The exact course of treatment must be decided on a case-by-case basis and also depends on how far advanced the pregnancy is. In any case, the pregnancy should be maintained if the 38th week of pregnancy has not yet been reached.
Your Cervix Is Shortened? You Can Do It Yourself:
If your cervix is already shortened, you can do a few things yourself to relieve your body. The most important thing is that you allow yourself plenty of rest and avoid physical exertion as much as possible. It is best to spend as much time as possible lying down so that your cervix is not strained.
Difficult tasks should be taken over by your partner, family, or friends during this time. In most cases, you can go about your daily routine normally. However, you should pay attention to your body and take things a little slower. Also, make sure to take regular breaks, for example, when you are doing housework.
If you already have children, it is a good idea to hire household help to take some of the load off you.