You know what isn’t the first thing that you think of when you find out you’re pregnant? The state of your cervix. Until I got pregnant with my son, I hadn’t really thought much about that tiny part of my body. I mean, I never see it or touch it. However, because I had gone into preterm labor with my daughter, who I lost, my new OB-GYN wanted to keep tabs on my cervix. Sure enough, at 22 weeks gestation, I got the diagnosis. Believe me, I had a lot of thoughts when I heard the words, “incompetent cervix.”
For those that don’t know, an incompetent cervix (also known as a weakened cervix) is when the cervix can’t really take the weight or pressure of the pregnancy. Thus, the cervix (whose job it is to hold the door until it's "go time," so to speak) ends up slowly shortening and opening up. It only happens in about 1-2 percent of pregnancies (or at least, that’s what statistics show, but surely there are instances that go unreported or undiagnosed).
It’s not fully known why this happens, though some causes can be a malformed cervix or previous cervical surgery. Regardless, it’s pretty terrifying to go through. If you’re ever diagnosed with incompetent cervix, these are some of the things you might think, too.
First thing's first: I hate the term, “incompetent cervix.” Seriously, who the hell came up with that? You might as well just say, “Oh, hey, by the way, your cervix is totally inferior.” If any OB-GYNs are reading this, how about you start by explaining what the hell is going on with my body before insulting it to boot?
"Did I Do Something To Make This Happen?"
After the rage wears off, fear and guilt come into play. Fun, right? I immediately began to think that maybe I needed to have been resting more than I was. I should have quit my job and just gone on bed rest. Anything to prevent my baby from potentially falling out.
"Is This Because Of My Previous Procedures?"
Back in my early 20s, I was found to have abnormal cervical cells, which my gynecologist at the time removed via colposcopy and LEEP. These are two procedures that essentially scrape and cut away anything that could someday lead to cancer. My mind immediately went back to those days, and sadly, there is a possibility that those procedures could have damaged my or weakened my cervix.
It doesn’t mean everyone that has such a procedure will have the same experience. And honestly, having a weakened cervix that can still be treated is better than getting cervical cancer and having a lot more trouble with a pregnancy.
"Is This Related To How Many Sexual Partners I’ve Had?"
I love how stigmas always rear their ugly head when you least expect them. OK, no, actually, I despise that. Back in the day, I was a pretty sexually adventurous woman. To say I had a, uh, fair amount of partners is an understatement, and that’s OK. I’m not ashamed of having had multiple partners. That said, sometimes that Catholic guilt sneaks in to try to make me feel like I’m a terrible person and deserved things like having my first baby die or nearly losing my son. It’s all bullsh*t, though, and totally unrelated anyway.
"Is This Why I Lost My First Baby?"
Until halfway through my second pregnancy, no one was sure why my body went into preterm labor the first time around. To be honest, I don’t know why there wasn’t more of an investigation into it. (Maybe OB-GYNs just don’t do that, maybe it’s a financial thing, or maybe no one cares? Who knows.)
Regardless, it was frustrating and painful to think about how this might have been diagnosed sooner, and how maybe I wouldn’t have lost my daughter as a result.
"How Do We Fix This?"
I don’t like to hear about problems unless I’m also going to hear about how to fix them. I had already done some research, so while I wondered if there was anything else we could do, I knew the main fix: a cerclage. A cerclage is basically a stitch in the cervix to try and keep it shut so the baby doesn’t, well, fall out. If it sounds terrible, that’s because it is. I wound up having one, and while getting it removed was one of the worst kinds of hell I've ever experienced, it still beats the pain of losing a child.
"Am I Going To Lose This Baby, Too?"
When I found out my cervix was shortening to a dangerous point, I feared the worst. I was already under constant stress thinking I might lose my second baby somehow, but this confirmed that the danger was much closer than I thought.
"Why Don’t They Check For This Sooner?"
Because there was no specific cause for why I went into preterm labor the first time, my new OB-GYN didn’t want to take any risks. She put me on a regimen of progesterone shots when I got to my second trimester. She also had be come in for weekly transvaginal ultrasounds. But with all the advances in medicine we have these days, why hasn’t more been done to figure out how to prevent this and how to spot this sooner?
"I’m Not Letting This Beat Me"
I spent a terrifying 24 hours in a hospital room deciding whether or not to get my cerclage placed. Eventually, my husband and I decided to go for it. We knew that at least this way, we would stand a chance. When it comes to bad news during a pregnancy, all you can do is prepare to fight, so to speak, and hope for the best.