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Short Cervix and Preterm Labor

Bradley G. Goldberg, M.D.


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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Krisha Dec 21, 2016 03:14:22 AM ET

I am 31weeks and my Doctor says my cervix is short . But he didn't put me on bed rest or anything.

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Kiekie Dec 14, 2016 08:26:46 PM ET

Hi Am 24 weeks and my cervix is 13mm.Am worried because the doctor wouldn't see me until 28 weeks.Am expecting twins. I feel they have not explained to me much. Please any advice. Am so scared.

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Erin Nov 10, 2014 06:48:49 PM ET

I am 25 weeks and 4 days today. They discovered I had a short cervix at 20 weeks, measuring at a 2.4. For a couple weeks, I went in once a week to get measured and it stayed. Then, last week at my check up, it shrunk to a 1.56 and they admitted me for 3 days. They gave me the steroid shots to help my baby girl's lungs develop faster. The cut off to be stitched is 24 weeks and at this time I was 24 weeks and 4 days. I did get some contractions while I was there, and that's when they discovered that I am also 70% effaced. They let me come back home. I'm still on bed rest. Every day counts ladies, for our babies when they stay in there. My husband tells her every day she doesn't wanna come out yet because it's cold out here. =) I have been trying to stay positive because I feel that if you tell yourself you can carry her to full term, you will, or you will get very close. Don't stress, don't have sex, and just lay in bed and enjoy feeling of your baby kick. It's hard, it's not how we pictured being pregnant, but in the end, it will be so worth it. We can do this ladies, we got this. =)

mdtambo1980 Nov 18, 2014 03:15:13 PM ET

I just wanted to share my positive story with you. i was having contractions from 20 weeks on. at 24 weeks exactly, i was getting them more frequently, so i saw my doctor about it. after having a sonogram, we found my cervix to be .81cm! i was immediately transferred to a hospital with a nicu, and placed on strict bed rest. they started magnesium, steroids for the baby, progesterone, suppositories, and nifedipine. i was finally released at 30 weeks (6 weeks in the hospital!) i was then on home bed rest for an additional 6 weeks. they stopped the progesterone and nifedipine at that point, and i still held on until 38 weeks 1day! anything is possible! stay positive! the odds were way against me, with a cervix dripping to almost .7cm, but my little man is perfect and 15 months old. i'm now 19 weeks pregnant with baby #2 and my contractions have started again but, they are measuring my cervix weekly. i don't know you, but i'll be praying for you!

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Guest Feb 1, 2014 10:22:24 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?

Dakota Dec 1, 2014 09:52:17 PM ET

You should go to the doctor yourself. i was feeling the short cervix thing. i am 31 weeks and have a short cervix. after being at the hospital, they contacted my doctor and found that my cervix had completely opened up. you should go just be safe :)

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Ana May 28, 2013 12:06:43 AM 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 01:28:38 PM 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 12:27:26 PM 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 31, 2012 03:30:10 AM ET

I had a operation that closed tied my cervix up

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Kathy May 15, 2012 03:23:46 AM 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 07:13:09 PM ET


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