When a woman goes into labor, her cervix should open to make way for the delivery of a fetus. However, a woman can sometimes lose a baby or enter into premature labor if her cervix cannot carry the weight of a fetus. Experts at the University of Chicago Medicine report that this complication, known as cervical incompetence or cervical insufficiency, happens infrequently—and the number of women who suffer from cervical incompetence is unknown.
What Is an Incompetent Cervix?
After about 39 weeks of pregnancy, a woman’s cervix usually begins to open when she goes into labor. However, an incompetent cervix opens too soon—sometimes as early as 16 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. Cervical incompetence may occur because the muscles are not strong enough to manage the weight of the fetus.
Certain factors increase the risk of an incompetent cervix, including trauma and genetics. For example, a woman who has had an abortion, a serious tear from a previous delivery, or injury from an abnormal uterine surgery may be more likely to experience cervical incompetence. Additionally, structural abnormalities or imbalanced hormones may add to the risk.
Diagnosing and Treating Cervical Incompetence
Cervical insufficiency is difficult to diagnose, and many women don’t show any signs or symptoms before a medical issue occurs. However, if a doctor is aware of a woman’s history of cervical incompetence, he can add a small stitch into the cervix, known as a cerclage, to prevent premature opening. This stitch must be removed before labor. In a woman with no risk in her history, some of the following symptoms can indicate the possibility of an incompetent cervix:
- Feelings of pelvic pressure
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Light vaginal bleeding
- Minor backaches or cramps
When You Need Legal Help
If you believe your doctor mismanaged your cervical insufficiency and caused injury to you or your baby and have questions about filing a medical malpractice claim, you need answers. The attorneys at the Holton Law Firm work hard for their clients, and we can do the same for you. To speak with someone about your situation, start a live online chat on our website.