What does it mean to have a short cervix?

A short cervix means the length of your cervix is shorter than normal. To be more specific, a short cervix is one that is shorter than 25 millimeters (about 1 inch) before 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Why is the length important?

If you have a short cervix, you have a 1-in-2 chance (50 percent) of having a premature birth, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. So if you have a short cervix and you’re pregnant with just one baby, your health care provider may recommend these treatments to help you stay pregnant longer:

  • Cerclage
  • Vaginal progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that helps prepare your body for pregnancy. It may help prevent premature birth if you have a short cervix and you’re pregnant with just one baby. You insert it in your vagina every day starting before or up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, and you stop taking it just before 37 weeks.

If your provider thinks you have a short cervix, she may check you regularly with ultrasound.

How do you know if you have a short cervix?

Checking for a short cervix is not a routine prenatal test. Your provider probably doesn’t check your cervical length unless:

  • She has a reason to think it may be short.
  • You have signs of preterm labor. This is labor that begins too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • You have risk factors for premature birth, like you had a premature birth in the past or you have a family history of premature birth (premature birth runs in your family).

What makes a cervix short?

Many things can affect the length of your cervix, including:

  • Having an overdistended (stretched or enlarged) uterus
  • Problems caused by bleeding during pregnancy or inflammation (irritation) of the uterus
  • Infection
  • Cervical insufficiency

Read about our own Health Education Specialist Juviza’s personal experience being pregnant with a short cervix and her new connection to the March of Dimes’ mission.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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