Image from The National Institute of Health

Image from The National Institute of Health

It’s your first pregnancy and very excited. While doing your first ultrasound, the technician frowns as she scans your cervix with a vaginal probe. You ask what’s wrong and she mutters something about the cervix being too short but that your provider will explain more. What’s going on? You could possibly have a short cervix which means you’re at risk for having the baby too soon.

One out of eight babies born in the United States is premature which accounts for over one-half million babies each year. Premature birth is the leading cause of infant death, brain damage, blindness and other complications that costs $26 billion dollars a year in health care.

Women who have had a previous premature baby are at significant risk for having another one and should be seen immediately by a maternal fetal medicine specialist (a high risk pregnancy specialist). Does this also apply to women who are pregnant for the first time? The answer is yes. All pregnant women should receive an ultrasound for dating and documenting normal fetal anatomy no later than the middle of the second trimester and if the cervical length is less than 2.5 centimeters, the mother is at risk for a premature birth even if she is not complaining of cramping or bleeding. If the cervix is less than 25 mm or 2.5 cm,

• A repeat ultrasound should be done ASAP to document the short cervix
• Vaginal progesterone tablets should be prescribed as soon as possible and before 24 weeks. Why? Because they reduce premature births by 44%

This information is especially important for first-time pregnant women who have no documented history of previous preterm births. Several years ago, first-time pregnant moms with a short cervix were not treated but recent medical studies have proven that these women should be treated. Therefore, a short cervix should not be ignored.

Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother or knows what to do.

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