A short cervix is often diagnosed during the routine ultrasound performed about half way through your pregnancy. If you are told you have a short cervix, you may not know what this means. Essentially, it just means your cervix is shorter than would be considered normal at this stage of pregnancy.
Typically, the cervix ranges from an inch and a half to two inches in thickness at the mid stage of pregnancy. Women with a short cervix can measure as little as a half inch in thickness. The cause is basically unknown.
What is known is that women with a short cervix appear to be at a greater risk of having preterm labor, compared with women having a thicker cervix. The risk of early labor is related to the severity of the short cervix. The shorter it is, the more likely a woman is to experience preterm labor.
In some cases, a procedure known as cerclage may be done. This involves stitching the cervix. The idea is to prevent the cervix from dilating and effacing before it is time for the baby to be born. This procedure is somewhat controversial, since there isn’t definitive evidence that it is an effective method for preventing the onset of labor.
Having a short cervix isn’t a guarantee that labor will start early. It is merely an indication that preterm labor may be a problem. Some women with a short cervix go on to carry the baby to term, or even past the due date. It is impossible to tell from the ultrasound which category a particular woman will end up. Only time will tell.
Don’t be surprised if your doctor treats your case as a high risk for preterm labor. Many doctors prefer to do this as a matter of caution, since it is difficult to tell which women will deliver early and which will not. Your doctor may suggest curtailing some of your activities as a precaution against the possibility of early labor. While this is certainly inconvenient, it is better than having the baby arrive many weeks before the due date.