Incompetent Cervix

Nationwide Cerebral Palsy Resource Network

One condition that sometimes goes undetected despite regular prenatal care is known as an incompetent cervix, or insufficient cervix. Affecting approximately one out of a hundred pregnancies, the incompetent cervix is a potentially serious complication of pregnancy that occurs when a cervix cannot withstand the weight of a fetus pressing against it as it grows.

Often difficult to diagnose, an incompetent cervix can result in a miscarriage, preterm labor and the premature birth of a child, typically during the second trimester, if the condition is not promptly treated. If medical professionals failed to properly monitor your pregnancy and provide timely treatment, please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800)462-5772 to discuss your legal options for free.

What are the causes of an incompetent cervix?

Women who have one or more of the following risk factors are at a higher risk of having an incompetent cervix:

  • Previous surgeries performed on the cervix;
  • Damage to the cervix caused by a previous complicated or difficult birth;
  • A malformed cervix or uterus as a result of birth defects or previous surgeries;
  • Exposure to Diethylstilbestrol, a medication that was given to women in the 1960s to the 1970s to reduce the risk of miscarriage;
  • Cervical trauma, including a procedure known as a D&C, or dilation and curettage, or a procedure done to treat the after effects of a miscarriage, abortion, or heavy uterine bleeding;
  • Laser ablation to remove abnormal cells, or dysplasia, that are present in the cervix;
  • Birth trauma;
  • A previous forcep delivery;
  • A history of previous miscarriages.

What are the signs and symptoms of an incompetent cervix?

Many women who suffer from an incompetent cervix are often asymptomatic until it is too late. In other words, the first sign of the condition often manifests itself in a miscarriage or the premature labor and birth of their child.

The reasoning behind this is that an incompetent cervix is rare and is not routinely checked for during a pregnancy that appears to be progressing normally and without complication. An incompetent cervix will cause the cervix to dilate without the woman initially feeling it. As dilation progresses, a woman may notice spotting or vaginal bleeding, which indicates the more active stages of labor. For women who are diagnosed with an incompetent cervix before labor begins, they may experience increased vaginal discharge or a feeling of heaviness in the pelvis, groin and rectum. Some women may also experience back pain and light to moderate abdominal cramping.

If a woman feels she has the risk factors associated with an incompetent cervix, or if she is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. The sooner a woman acts, the better her chances are of receiving treatment for incompetent cervix and avoiding the serious and irreversible consequences of the condition.

How is an incompetent cervix diagnosed?

Since there are often little to no physical symptoms that initially manifest when a woman has an incompetent cervix, it isn’t always possible to receive a diagnosis of the condition in time to prevent pre-term labor or a miscarriage.  Those who have some of the risk factors associated with a weakened cervix are more likely to have a preventative ultrasound or pelvic exam to diagnose the problem.

An ultrasound is the most effective way of determining whether a woman has an incompetent cervix.  It can most accurately measure the length of the cervix and extent of dilation. A pelvic exam is also helpful in the sense that it can initially spot whether a cervix is prematurely dilating, often indicative of an incompetent cervix.

If medical personnel missed or ignored the signs of a weakened cervix, you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800)462-5772 for free to discuss your legal options.