Mummy Social Learns… About Incompetent Cervix

Danielle (Dani) 25 lives in Lusaka, Zambia with her husband and two children, Elia (2) and Eva (3 months). She works as a marketing manager for a Resort, she brings her children to work with her every day. She suffered from an incompetent cervix which brought high risk to both her pregnancies. Danni recently caught up with her to find out more.

Hello Danielle, thank you for taking the time to speak to us about this relatively unknown subject. Can you please briefly explain to us what an incompetent cervix is and the risks it brings during pregnancy/birth?

An incompetent cervix, also known as a cervical insufficiency, occurs when you have weak cervical tissue. It can cause or contribute to premature birth or the loss of an otherwise healthy pregnancy. Basically, your cervix opens.

I understand you suffered from this during your first pregnancy and are currently suffering with it again during your current one too. How is this usually discovered? Are there any specific symptoms that occur? Is it something that is ‘diagnosed’ during pregnancy or is it usually discovered when it is too late?

I was really shocked that my cervix was not checked until my anomaly scan at 22 weeks. (Anomaly scans should actually happen at 20 weeks). Apparently, it is taken for granted by most doctors that a woman’s cervix is closed and only until spotting or any bleeding occurs is the cervix checked. By this point, you could either lose the baby or you have to be placed on bed rest until the baby is at a mature enough stage to be born. This was my case with Elia.

Due to having an incompetent cervix, I know that you nearly lost your first baby. If you are able to please can you talk us through what happened?

I had some spotting at 12 weeks but the baby seemed fine, the doctor said all was well and not to think anything of it. They had not checked to see if my cervix was closed at this time. I went for the routine anomaly scan at 22 weeks and the whole scan was perfect until the very end when the doctor checked my cervix and was concerned how short it was. He then did an internal scan to measure how short it was and found it was more a less completely open and I was about to lose the baby. I was rushed into theatre for a Mcdonald Cervical Stitch to close my cervix and placed on bed rest.

Is there a treatment for an incompetent cervix? What does this involve? Have you been offered anything during this pregnancy?

There is no treatment for an incompetent cervix. There is no fact or proof as to what causes it. In my second pregnancy, they started watching my cervix from the moment I found out I was pregnant. Usually, if you have this problem you will have it with all pregnancies. This time by 12 weeks my cervix started opening and they once again sent me to theatre for a stitch and placed me on partial bedrest.

I know you that you have been concerned about the lack of information available about this? Did you receive much support or information during your experiences? What advice would you give anyone who found themselves in a similar situation as yourself?

I had never heard of this issue in my life, neither had my mother, aunties or any of my sisters. I was not given much support as I knew no one else with the same problem. It was nothing doctors talked about or informed me about at the beginning of my pregnancies so when the emergency op happened it was all very overwhelming and new. It was unknown territory. I wish I could have spoken to someone who went through the same problem to assure me.
I would definitely advise every woman to insist your doctors checks the length of your cervix at every scan from the moment you find out you’re pregnant and to ask as many questions as you feel to your doctor, don’t hold back, you have the right to! Find someone to talk to about it who has been through the same experience, even if it’s online. If you do have an incompetent cervix please do listen to the doctors and take it easy! Even after you are put on a high dose of progesterone or opted for the cervical stitch. It’s not worth having a premature baby when rest could have helped you and the baba.

Are there any long-term effects from suffering from an incompetent cervix?

There are no long term effects thankfully. However, as you get pregnant after each time your cervix does get weaker, therefore, it may start shortening sooner.

If you’d like to follow Dani has started blogging about motherhood, family life and child nutrition on Instagram and Facebook. @dan1elle___

Interview by Danni, Mummy Social Team