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Pregnancy Problems

During pregnancy, your health is number one priority. That’s why we went straight to top pregnancy health experts for all the details you want to know about the most common pregnancy problems. In our pregnancy problems guide, you can read about a slew of pregnancy conditions – everything from hemorrhoids to gestational diabetes. Find out what any pregnancy symptom could possibly mean (are you swollen just because you’re expecting, or is it a sign of some complication?) and find out whether or not it’s worth a call to your OB. If you already know you’ve got a pregnancy complication or health condition, our comprehensive articles will give you the scoop on its causes and how it can affect you and baby. Plus, get treatment tips straight from medical experts and pregnant women like you. Yup, we've got answers to all your questions about pregnancy health problems right here!

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What is a short cervix?

The doctor says I have a short cervix. What does that mean? Should I be worried?

Re:

The doctor says I have a short cervix. What does that mean? Should I be worried?

The Bump Expert

The cervix is the neck of the uterus. During pregnancy, it’s tightly closed; during labor, it dilates to around 10 centimeters so that your baby can make his entry into the world.

A short cervix is basically what it sounds like: a cervix that’s shorter than normal. That’s potentially concerning because short cervixes have been linked to preterm birth. Before you panic, though, ask some questions.

“In years past, the ability to identify the true cervical length was limited to physical examination,” says Michael P. Nageotte, MD, medical director of the MemorialCare Center for Women at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach. And a physical exam isn’t necessarily the best way to determine cervical length, because physicians can only see a part of the cervix. Ultrasound technology is a much more reliable way to determine cervical length. “So when a patient is told that her cervix is short, her first question should be, ‘How was that determined? Was it based upon a clinical examination or an ultrasound?’” Dr. Nageotte says.

Next, have a heart-to-heart with your doc about your risk of preterm birth. A short cervix is just one factor that may increase the risk of preterm birth; a previous history of preterm births, a history of maternal smoking or uterine infections, for instance, can also increase the risk.

Depending on your personal risk factors, your doctor may recommend medical intervention. Progesterone suppositories and/or a stitch (called a cerclage) surgically placed in the cervix may help prevent preterm labor. Many doctors still advise bed rest for pregnant women with short cervixes, but “it is less than clear that putting a patient who has a short cervix on bed rest has any benefit,” Dr. Nageotte says.

Plus, more from The Bump:

How to Avoid Preterm Labor

Ways to Make Labor Easier

What Are the Stages of Labor?

Michael P. Nageotte, MD, medical director of the MemorialCare Center for Women at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach