How Do You Know If You Have An Incompetent Cervix?

How Do You Know If You Have An Incompetent Cervix?

An incompetent cervix is a medical pregnancy condition where your cervix starts to open before it's time for deliver. Here are symptoms to look out for and the risk factors.

During pregnancy, your cervix remains closed, but before delivery, it dilates to allow your child come through. In a case where your cervix dilates earlier than is normal, this could mean that you have an incompetent cervix. This cervical incompetence can lead to miscarriage and premature delivery. Incompetent cervix has symptoms that hardly show up during early pregnancy. 

How to identify incompetent cervix symptoms.

cervical incompetence

Incompetent cervix is a bit rare and only happens in about 1 in 100 pregnancies. At the lower end of the uterus is a cervix, which is the part of the uterus that opens into the vagina and is normally firm and closed. Normally, it should only begin to gradually soften, decrease in length, and then open when you’re nearing delivery. If you have an incompetent cervix, then your cervix will begin to soften and open earlier than usual, which then leads to you having to give birth before the baby is ready.

Things you should look out for

A woman with cervical incompetence may not have any symptoms during the early stages of pregnancy. Here are things to look out for: 

  • A new backache
  • A sensation of pelvic pressure
  • Light vaginal bleeding
  • Mild abdominal cramps
  • A change in vaginal discharge
incompetent cervix

Image: Pinterest

Generally, there are hardly any symptoms that usually tell you for sure that you’re going to have an incompetent cervix, even in late pregnancy. Your cervix can just do what it wants at will with no signs or symptoms, but some women may get the above signs. Although sometimes doctors do inform women who have cervical issues and are at risk of giving birth before their due time. If you have this information from your doctor, then the best you can do is have the doctor keep monitoring you and checking the length of your cervix. Also, if at any time you’re experiencing any symptoms you do not understand, then contact your doctor immediately. Here are the signs and symptoms of premature labour you should look out for. 

  • Pressure around your pelvis and within the vagina.
  • When you’re discharging fluid excessively, which could mean your waters have broken.
  •  Bleeding or losing your mucus plug
  • Pains in your abdomen or lower back. These may have a rhythm or be constant.

Risk factors

incompetent cervix symptoms

To be able to identify the risk factors of incompetent cervix, your doctor will thoroughly check your history. Factors that can make the cervix open before time include anything that can make the cervix weaker. Risk factors include: 

  • Cervical trauma: Women rightly go for surgery to correct any abnormalities with their cervix, but this surgery can sometimes result in cervical incompetence. There are other surgeries that can also be associated with cervical incompetence. Also, a tear in your cervix during your last pregnancy can sometimes result in cervical incompetence, but very rarely. 
  • Natural conditions: These are conditions that may have happened from birth, which may include genetic conditions, abnormalities with the uterus, and getting exposed to a form of oestrogen
  • Race: For reasons yet unknown, black people are more likely to have cervical incompetence. 


how to take care of yourself

It’s near impossible to prevent the occurrence of cervical incompetence. But, there are a few things you can do to ensure a healthy pregnancy period. 

  • Regular antenatal care: Seeing the doctor regularly for antenatal care will help monitor your health and that of your baby. Any disease or complications can be caught and dealt with early. Also, during these visits to the doctor, it is important that you mention any signs or symptoms you are experiencing. 
  • Healthy and balanced diet: A healthy and balanced diet is even more important during pregnancy because your baby needs the nutrients you take in for development. During pregnancy, you’ll need calcium, folic acid, iron, and other nutrients and vitamins. 
  • Moderate weight: During pregnancy, it is important to find a healthy balance between too much weight and too little weight. You need just enough weight to comfortably accommodate the baby, but too much weight may cause complications. The recommended weight gain sits between 25 to 35 pounds. 
  • Don’t take risky substances: Quit smoking and drinking alcohol the moment you become pregnant to avoid any side effects on the baby. Also, it is very important that you clear it with your doctor before taking any medications. 

Unfortunately, there are no reliable tests anywhere that can tell you for sure whether you’re going to have cervical incompetence before pregnancy. However, your doctor can run some tests to see if there’s anything abnormal in your uterus that might cause an incompetent cervix. Also, if you’ve had an incompetent cervix during your last pregnancy, this means you are at risk of having another. Hence, before your next pregnancy, talk to your doctor about the risks. 

Read alsoCervical dilation: this is how the cervix dilates during labour

Written by

Lydia Ume