Key Facts About Cervical Incompetence

Trish ~ Labor Nurse Mama
January 27, 2020

Cervical incompetence is something most people don't know about unless you do. But unfortunately, it is still so confusing and utterly heartbreaking at times.

Why I am here and who I am:

Hey mama, I am Trish— AKA Labor Nurse Mama. I am a labor and delivery nurse with over 15 years of high-risk OB experience. I am also a mama to 7 kids and have given birth to 6. This means I am quite familiar with the postpartum period and how to navigate it. I am the online birth class educator for Calm Labor Confident Birth and The VBAC Lab birth classes and the mama expert inside our Calm Mama Society, a pregnancy & postpartum membership community! I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey! You can find me over on IG teaching over 230k mamas daily. I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey!

We make a small commission from some of the links (you don’t pay any more for using our links); however some of the recommendations, we do not earn anything; we love ’em and want you to know about them. Click here for our full disclosure. Thank you!

What is your Cervix?

The cervix is the end of your uterus, like the end of a balloon. It should be long and thick until you begin to go into labor. At which time, it gets soft, gets thinner, and opens.

What is Cervical Incompetence?

In some women, their cervix might start shorter than the average cervix or even open. Both of these are a problem.

Unfortunately, cervical incompetence or cervical insufficiency, often missed, until a poor mama has repeated miscarriages or second-trimester losses.

It is my opinion if you have had several losses, ask your doctor to check the length of your cervix.

Keep in mind that a short cervix and incompetent cervix are two different things. A short cervix might be that, short cervix and it always will stay short. An incompetence cervix continues to shorten and thin out and open.

An incompetent or weakened cervix happens in about 1-2% of pregnancies.  Almost 25% of babies miscarried in the second trimester are due to incompetent cervix.

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Risk Factors

I'm going to share some of the known risk factors, but many who develope cervical incompetence don't have any risks.

Trauma to your cervix

Previous trauma to your cervix can cause your cervix to dilate or shorten earlier in pregnancy. Injury can happen during some of the procedures used to treat cervical problems found on a pap smear. Another known trauma might be a D&C.


Another weird risk factor, and mysterious because it is unknown why it is that black women are at higher risk, but they are.


Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic form of the hormone estrogen, before birth, also has been linked to cervical insufficiency. (read the article, it explains it all well). It means you were exposed when you were inside your mama. 

Read this now: The 7 Best Books to Read While Pregnant


Congenital Issues

The most common congenital cause is a defect in the embryological development of Mullerian ducts. In Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or Marfan syndrome, due to the deficiency in collagen, the cervix is not able to perform adequately, leading to insufficiency


Symptoms of Cervical Incompetence

The symptoms can be minimal or nonexistent at the beginning of pregnancy. But somewhere around 14-16 weeks, things might get tricky.

    • mild spotting
    • mild cramping
    • a sudden and new backache
    • vaginal discharge changing
What happens if you have Cervical Incompetence?

Unfortunately, many women do not receive a diagnosis unless they have a second or third-trimester loss of pregnancy.

If you have risk factors above, you could ask for an evaluation before pregnancy or in early pregnancy by ultrasound.

If you are found to have cervical incompetence or an incompetence cervix, then a cerclage might be the answer. A cerclage is a surgical procedure done in the hospital.

You will receive spinal or epidural anesthesia, and your doctor will place a stitch (otherwise known as a cerclage) to prevent the cervix from opening.

Comment below and let me know your experience with cervical incompetence!

Just a little Disclaimer: As always, I am just writing my thoughts and what I’ve learned along the way. Although I am in fact a labor and delivery RN, This is not medical advice. You should always seek and follow the advice of your care provider.

This post may contain some affiliate links (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Thank you! For our full disclosure read here)


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