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Short Cervix and Preterm Labor

by Bradley G. Goldberg, M.D.
72 Comments


My doctor told me that I have a short cervix and that there is a possibility for me to have a premature baby. I am only 19 weeks and this is very frightening for me if there is any advice you can give me please do so.

A Until recently the only way to determine if a woman was at risk for premature labor was for the doctor to manually check her cervix. Currently, many obstetricians now use ultrasound to more precisely measure the length of a pregnant woman's cervix. Not all women need this cervical length ultrasound study, just those who are felt to be at high risk for premature labor.

The data from these ultrasound studies is still growing, and we are constantly trying to decide the best ways to both monitor and treat this condition. We do however, have a good idea as to what length a pregnant woman's cervix should be by these ultrasound measurements. When the cervix shortens significantly from these normal values, treatment can be considered but it is highly individualized.

Newer tests, such as the "fetal fibronectin" test are also sometimes used to augment the predictive value of these ultrasound measurements, but these tests also are new and not yet available in all locations.

Possible treatments for a shortening cervix depend upon how far along in the pregnancy a woman is. These treatments include placing a "cerclage" or stitch in the cervix to help prevent further dilitation. Also, use of 'tocolytics" which are medications to decrease contractions are sometimes used; and for pregnancies between 24 - 34 weeks, administration of steroids to aid in the development of the baby's lungs can also be considered.

In my opinion, some of the greatest advances in modern medicine have been in the fields of Obstetrics and Neonatology. We have significantly reduced the risk of maternal mortality (which is the risk of a mother dying in childbirth), and our ability to successfully care for premature infants improves every year. Unfortunately, there are still many questions to be answered as to what causes premature labor and what we can do to prevent it. For now, your best course of action is close monitoring with your Obstetrician, and possible consultation with a perinatologist which is a doctor who specializes in these high-risk pregnancies.

Bradley G. Goldberg, M.D.
Coffee Women's Center, P.C.

Dr. Bradley G Goldberg is a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Goldberg is certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Goldberg is Chief of Staff of Coffee Regional Medical Center. Currently, he is serving as Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and he is the Chairman of the Perinatal Committee. Dr. Goldberg graduated from the University of Florida in 1989 as a member of The Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He received his medical degree from the University of Florida College of Medicine, and completed his internship and residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgia Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta.

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Guest Feb 1, 2014 05:22:24 PM ET

Hi i am 33 weeks but had ultrasound at 30 weeks and results said my cervix was short but didn't find out until my doctor appointment just this week st 32 weeks and the doctor told me they need another ultrasound to check my cervix and i might need a steroid shot and stop work. i told him i have been experiencing lower back pain tail bone sore. i have also been feeling like swollen down there and stuff but they tried making an appointment for another ultrasound. but place booked so nurse told me to call if no one contacted me in regards to the appointment to check. that was 3 days ago i keep trying to call the doctor but it's either closed or i get answer machine so should i just go to hospital myself and see what is going on? or just keep trying to get a hold of doctor?

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Ana May 27, 2013 08:06:43 PM ET

I justhad my ultrasound done today and was told that my cervix is short and that it can cause premature labour. i hae been bleeding and having belly pain. im only 19 weeks pregnant and so scared for my baby boy :(((

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Guest Feb 18, 2013 08:28:38 AM ET

I was told around 20 w that my cervix is short( 13mm) and might go in early labour. i did indeed had my girl at 27 w, my question is why if they knew i had 4 miscarriages before did not check my cervix to have any treatment ??? they are spending so much money to care for preterm babies, my opinion is that they have to try to do proper checks before pregnancies. i went to a recurrent clinic, but the procedures are so limited , no checking of my cervix was done, i believe it could have been prevented. and i am not the only one!!! i am sure many women have to go through the trauma of having a preterm baby, not saying nothing about what these babies are going trough , they are crying, a lot, no one can say what they feel, all the stress. i am trying to say that, as with everything is better to prevent than to treat!!!

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Tina Aug 11, 2012 08:27:26 AM ET

My first ultrasound showed that my cervix is only 2.5,by the week 20 of my pragnancy it came down to 0.8cm i was addmited to hospital and had my stich done. by week 35 my stich couldn't hold any longer, and my dr told me that i should rest and take it day by day . week 37 had my baby girl, healthy,3.4kg she is almost two years old today. good luck with u pragnancy and i hope everything goes well for u.

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Sherrell Jul 30, 2012 11:30:10 PM ET

I had a operation that closed tied my cervix up

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Kathy May 14, 2012 11:23:46 PM ET

Hi ladies,, am going tru the samething i am currently 25 weeks and had just went for a cervix routine check up and was told my cervix was shorter than the last time i went so the doc decided to send me to labor n delivery and get the steroid injection to help baby lungs develop faster just in case i deliver i am scared because i had my 2 previous kid at 34 and 31 week .. but i knoe god is there with us n will guide us :) we just leave it in his hands..

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Jennifer Feb 23, 2012 02:13:09 PM ET

I found out a while ago about my shortened cervix an been having pains shoot threw my beelly into my legs for some reason my doc said its normal along with the spotting ive been having im also breech so i guess that dont help anything either im 33 weeks an 4 days an i just feel harable what should i do.....

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Elizabeth Feb 19, 2012 02:49:00 PM ET

I am 33 weeks tomorrow and i have been having contractions for 9 days now. at 31 weeks my baby weighed 5 lbs 9 ozs and they were asking if i had gd which i dont but im concerned about the contractions so i went to the hospital and the said my cervix had shortened and that i was having more contractions then i should be. im not dilated and my water hasnt broken but they are getting worse. what should i do?

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Elizabeth Feb 19, 2012 02:46:02 PM ET

I am 33 weeks tomorrow and i have been having contractions for 9 days now. i went to the hospital and the said my cervix had shortened and that i was having more contractions then i should be. im not dilated and my water hasnt broken but they are getting worse. what should i do?

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AshleyRenee Feb 1, 2012 04:11:38 PM ET

I'm 20 weeks. i was called in to my dr.'s office last week after my ultrasound results came back, showing my cervix had shrank down to 1cm. i was referred to a specialists at north austin medical (st.david's) and within 2 hours my iv && medications were in. i was really worried why this was happening. my dr didn't even understand why because i had never had children before. anyways, long story short.. lol i went to the hospital tuesday afternoon, had my cerclage at 5pm wed. && was able to go home the next afternoon. i have to say i was really scared that they were going to put me under lol but a simple spinal was all that was needed. i'm still on bed rest till 28 weeks, then we'll see how things are going. i'm also going to transfer to the hospital the specialist is at because it is amaaaazing! && everyone there is very nice && care for you well. good luck to everyone else on bed rest! we will get through these boring times! lol && it will all be worth it when our beautiful healthy babies arrive!

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