Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

What’s With Cervical Lengths?

At my first doctor appointment with my third pregnancy (my first two resulting in preemies) the doctor started talking about cervical length.  He said that we would want to check my cervical length every 2 weeks during my pregnancy so that we always knew what was going on with my body and if there was any indication of oncoming labor.  Okay, I thought, whatever it takes!

What I didn’t know right at first was that you can ONLY check cervical length by going internal.  I suppose I was secretly hoping that at some point they could see the length by a stomach ultrasound.  Nope.  I got very used to dressing down and exposing myself to the world.  Another thing I wasn’t prepared for was that every doctor has a different opinion about the value of doing cervical lengths.  In fact, every doctor has a different opinion about almost everything, but I’ll get into that in another post.  For this pregnancy I ended up seeing three different high risk doctors (for various reasons).

My first doctor swore by cervical lengths.  He said we should check my cervical length every two weeks and as long as my cervix was longer than 2.5 cm then we could feel good about it.  If it ever shortened below 2.5 cm then it was time to panic!  He said that if that happened I would definitely be sentenced to bedrest, I would start the progesterone shot if I wasn’t doing it already, and I would get my steroid shot.  So, I went in for an exam every two weeks and was relieved to see lengths of 3.5 cm and 3.3 cm, etc.  I continued to have good measurements for two months.

I transferred to a different hospital and when I met with my second doctor I told him I wanted to continue getting cervical lengths every 2 weeks so I could closely monitor my body’s signals.  This doctor thought it was absolutely ridiculous to check cervical length so often, and even at all!  He said that the length of your cervix fluctuates so much that you can’t necessarily say that a measurement shorter than 2.5 cm means that you will start labor any time soon.  My midwife supported him and said that in the last two months of her pregnancy she had her cervix measured often and it fluctuated from 2.3 to 1.7 to 3.0 to 2.8 to 1.3, etc.  It was all over the place!  She said that checking cervical lengths only made her stress out if it was short, or feel relieved when it was long, but the knowledge never changed the outcome of her pregnancy.  Because this doctor thought he knew everything and disregarded my concerns, I switched doctors again.

My third doctor actually agreed that cervical lengths were not necessary, but he was willing to do manual exams and give me a good estimate of the length just to appease me.  He said that later in pregnancy it was much more important to know how tight the cervix was and its position, which better predicted the onset of labor.  Manual exams could do both of these as well as give a good length estimate.

So, if your doctor tells you that you need to monitor your cervical length then ask questions and form your own opinion about the necessity of such information.  It’s not the worst thing in the world and it certainly may give you some peace of mind knowing as much as you can about what’s happening with your body, but remember that just because your doctor says it doesn’t mean that it’s law.  Of course the necessity of getting cervical lengths may depend on your individual complications, but be prepared for every doctor you see to have a different opinion.  Ultimately you need to decide what makes you feel the most comfortable and make sure you have a doctor who will work with you.  The issue of cervical lengths was one thing that taught me that doctors don’t know everything and that I need to play an active role in my health care.

Afton Mower About Afton Mower

After Mower (UT) lost her firstborn son at 21 weeks.  Her daughter was born a year and a half later at 27 weeks.  The NICU was overwhelming and isolating and it was through those two experiences she was led to found this social hub for parents to find the support they needed. Afton also gave birth to another daughter, born two days overdue after four months of strict bedrest. She believes it is a tender experience to hold a special baby in your arms when his spirit returns to his heavenly home, a miracle to watch tiny babies survive the risks of prematurity and a blessing to hold a healthy full-term baby after months of difficulty and sacrifices.

Comments

  1. This was a very interesting posts. I was clueless to the doctors who thought that cervical length was really not that important due to the mass amounts of women who are on bed rest due to shortened cervix. I am glad that you thought enough for yourself to become a part of the decisions that were made regarding your care during your pregnancies! in my opinion, it is OUR body, so we should have a say, regardless of what the doctor says.

    Thank you for sharing this!!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Joni. I think all women have a degree of intuition about their bodies, and with a little research and being an active participant in our health care we can make good decisions considering the advice of our doctors. It’s so important to find a doctor who listens to you and works with you.

  3. Hello. I had my first son at 26 w. 5 d. weighing 1 lb 13 oz on 6/8/13 with a 151 day NICU stay. His main complication was CLD. I had mild spotting periodically through pregnancy but was told that is “normal”. I exercised regularly, worked full-time, and felt great! I want to have another child in the future but am absolutely terrifed at the prospect of another micro-preemie birth and NICU stay. I plan to see a high-risk doc, receive p17 shots, possibly bed rest, and preventative antibiotics. They never identified why my water broke but I had a double vaginal infection two weeks prior so I believe it was that! In my research, I have read that vaginal exams are NOT recommended for a woman with a history of PPROM. Also, my cervix never shortened or changed which is why they kept saying everything was “fine” despite the bleeding. Any feedback or thoughts about this? Thanks!

Speak Your Mind

*