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The cervix plays an important role in the female body, including during pregnancy. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus which connects to the vagina. Although uncommon in women, an incompetent cervix can cause failure of pregnancies.
During pregnancy, a number of interesting changes happen to the cervix ultimately facilitating childbirth.
Roles of Cervix During Pregnancy
The Cervix Holds The Exit To Delivery
When pregnancy reaches week 37, the amount of amniotic fluid reduces, contractions increase and the cervix begins to expand. There is passage of the mucus plug which indicates a dilating cervix. All these things are in preparation for labor and childbirth. The mucus plug protects bacteria from entering the cervix and its passing signals opening of the cervix which in turn indicates labor, possibly within few days or even few hours.
There Is An Optimal Length Of Cervix
During pregnancy, the uterine cervix is generally 3 cm or more in length. Cervix measuring less than 3 cm may indicate a potential problem and should be attended by a health care expert. The length of the cervix can be determined through ultrasound. The length of the cervix during pregnancy may be associated with labor.
A short cervix may put you at risk for preterm labor and premature birth (weakened cervix). Premature birth can put health risks for the baby. Usually, the cervix is firm and closed (when you are not pregnant). In pregnancy, the cervix becomes soft and dilated. It also decreases in length. These changes are in preparation for the approaching childbirth. When the cervix starts to open too early, it may lead to prematurely delivery.
Problems With The Cervix Can Hinder Pregnancy And Childbirth
As pregnancy progresses, the baby grows heavier and presses on the cervix which may cause it to open too soon when the cervix is not strong enough (weakened cervix). Besides weakened cervix, women may experience an ectopic pregnancy with cervix as the site. This is a rare condition which may be dealt with only medical termination of the pregnancy. Otherwise, it may cause fatal hemorrhage.
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Identifying A Weakened Cervix Can Ease Labor And Childbirth
A weakened cervix can account for about 25% of miscarriages in the second trimester of pregnancy. Women who have had a previous surgery or trauma to the cervix are at risk for having a weakened cervix. A birth defect of the uterus or cervix can also pose risk for an incompetent cervix in women. It is important to identify whether you are at risk for having a weakened cervix, even though the incidence is not common.
Pregnant women should be evaluated before pregnancy, or in early pregnancy for cervix functionality. An ultrasound or pelvic examination can help in diagnosing the cervical opening or the length of the cervix.
The Cervix Can Be Treated To Facilitate Childbirth
Women having a weakened cervix, which can hamper pregnancy and may even cause spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), can be treated for easing pregnancy. Sometimes, the cervix needs to be protected from opening early during pregnancy to facilitate sound delivery. If your doctor finds you at risk for opening of cervix before the optimal time, he/she can recommend stitching it. There are other promising ways of treating the cervix; progesterone treatment and pessary may be implemented for the cervix.
Photo Credit: http://levonsystems.com/TEST/Dhoomproduction220211/effacement-of-cervix