What is a Shortened Cervix?

What is a Shortened Cervix?

Are you dealing with a shortened cervix and wondering what that means? We can help! Read our response below to a pregnant mom who asked this very question.

When a mom-to-be asked, “What do you know about an early shortened cervix?” we knew we had to jump in and help her out. That’s what we do here at Twiniversity. Here’s what we found:

What is a Shortened Cervix?

The cervix is the opening to the uterus (womb) that sits at the top of the vagina (birth canal). It opens, shortens, and gets thinner and softer so your baby can pass through the birth canal during labor and birth. In some women, the cervix opens too early during pregnancy or is shorter than normal. A shortened cervix can cause problems during pregnancy, including premature birth and miscarriage. What does this all mean?

Why does the length of your cervix matter?

The length of your cervix can affect the type of pregnancy you have. If you have a short cervix, you are at increased risk of having a premature birth.

What causes a shortened cervix?

There are 3 main causes of a shortened cervix.

  1. Heredity
  2. Trauma
  3. Abnormalities of the cervix or uterus
An ultrasound can determine if you have a shortened cervix
An ultrasound may determine if you have a short cervix.

How do you know if you have a short cervix?

When you’re pregnant, you learn all kinds of things about your anatomy, especially during prenatal ultrasounds. You may find out that you have a short cervix during an early ultrasound. However, checking for a short cervix is not a routine prenatal test. You need to beware of the symptoms and always discuss concerns with your healthcare provider.

What are the symptoms of a short cervix?

Symptoms of shortened cervix include:

  • signs of preterm labor (labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • unusual cramping
  • pelvic pressure or pain
  • light bleeding
  • backache
  • changes in vaginal discharge

There is some good news though. Once diagnosed, there are treatments that can help delay your delivery as long as possible.

What are the treatments for a shortened cervix?

A pregnant woman is in an exam room being consoled by her doctor for a shortened cervix
There are treatments for a shortened cervix

Because a short cervix can increase the risk of premature labor, there are treatments to help keep you pregnant longer. Here are the most common treatment options:

Cervical cerclage

A cervical cerclage is basically a strong stitch that closes the cervix. This is a temporary stitch, and your doctor will remove it once it’s safe for you to deliver.

Progesterone

If considered high risk, your doctor may prescribe progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that helps prepare your body for pregnancy, and it may help prevent premature birth.

Bed Rest

Your doctor may recommend bed rest (or pelvic rest). This can mean anything from no sex or strenuous activity to full-on, only-get-up-to-pee bed rest.

A short cervix can be scary, stressful, and frustrating. But the good news is that doctors are getting much better at diagnosing and treating a short cervix before labor starts. If diagnosed with a shortened cervix, just know that you are not the only one. Keep reading to hear about some personal experiences with a shortened cervix.

Personal Experiences from our Twiniversity Community

A pregnant woman in blue and white striped pajamas is on bed rest for having a short cervix
A shortened cervix can result in preterm labor, causing necessary bed rest

– I have a history of preterm labor. I had my son at 35 weeks so I immediately went to a perinatologist when I found out I was pregnant with twins. My cervix started to shorten at 26 weeks, went into labor at 31 weeks, and was in the hospital for a week until they stopped it. I walked around dilated to 7cm and 90% effaced until 37 weeks when they broke my water because I was full-term then. They didn’t think it was safe for me to continue walking around like that because if my water broke on its own I definitely wouldn’t have time to get to the hospital. They were 100% right. I delivered both of my twins within 45 minutes of my water breaking.

I am beyond grateful a perinatologist was following me and caught me going into preterm labor before I even really felt anything. The last 11 weeks of my pregnancy were the most stressful time of my life but you can make it to full term with a shortened cervix and have healthy perfect little babies!

– I had preterm labor at 21 weeks with a shortened cervix. I was put on bed rest and had regular visits to the perinatologist. It kept shortening, but kept my twins in until 36 weeks. And I had healthy baby boys with no NICU time!

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More responses from our community

– I had a shortened cervix early on but my OB/GYN said it was fine no big deal. At 24 weeks, I went into preterm labor for 3 days and I was admitted into the hospital. At 24 weeks and 5 days, my twins were born. I wish my OB/GYN would have told me to take it easy or go on bed rest. But my babies are wonderful now after 116 days in NICU.

– Mine began shortening early and I had regular visits to the perinatologist. I was given the steroid shots to help lung development at about 28 weeks. My cervix was virtually gone by 30 weeks so I was put on bed rest. For other reasons, I delivered about a week and a half later. Six weeks in NICU. Everyone’s perfectly healthy a year and a half later!

– Mine was short early on but stayed closed. I had the twins at 37 weeks because my blood pressure started going up and no NICU. Good luck!

Close-up picture of a woman's lower abdomen, to illustrate that she has a shortened cervix
A short cervix is far more common than most women realize.

– Mine started thinning at 18 weeks, then funneling, then eventually dilating at 22 weeks. I saw a perinatologist at 20 weeks, who was pretty cold (basically said there’s no hope). We went for a second opinion once I started dilating and he did an emergency cerclage that day. Made it another 15 WEEKS after that! Babies born pink and screaming at 37 weeks and 2 days.

– Mine shortened down to basically nothing at 16 weeks. I had an emergency cerclage and spent the rest of my pregnancy on bed rest (4+ weeks of it on hospital bed rest). I delivered at 31 weeks.

Other personal experiences from Twiniversity moms

– Went on strict hospital bed rest for this at 23 weeks. Still couldn’t stop the babies from coming early at 28 weeks. They are okay now, but the 3.5 months of NICU stay was hell.

– I got a cerclage, which basically means they suture your cervix so that it can’t open preterm. There is a time limit to do that though. It was done at 19 weeks and I made it to 38 weeks and 1 day.

– I was put on bed rest at 23 weeks for this and given a weekly shot of progesterone. The shots were discontinued at 34 weeks and I had the babies at 35 weeks, 6 days.

– I had a shortened cervix early, at 20 weeks. I then went into preterm labor and had two hospital stays to stop the preterm labor. Ended up on bed rest for 2 months and the boys were born at 34 weeks. It was a frustrating experience!

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– Went on bedrest for that at 27 weeks, had the 2 steroid shots and was allowed modified bedrest at 34 weeks (but I could walk around the house). Delivered my girls 4 days later. They were in the NICU for 3 days. Bedrest sucks but with two healthy active kids, it was worth it.

Dealing with a shortened cervix

You may have a short cervix without even knowing. That’s why getting it diagnosed early is crucial. Always speak to your doctor about any and all concerns. Attend all prenatal appointments, and pay attention to any new symptoms. Luckily, treatments for a short cervix are very effective at helping to prevent premature birth.

All content on this Website, including medical opinions and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.


about Twiniversity
Written by: Amanda Hadley
Twiniversity Staff Writer

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