There is nothing easy about losing a baby, whether it's for the first or the third time - but repeated losses are especially painful. What's even worse is when you find out that one or all of the miscarriages you've experienced could have been prevented due to an undiagnosed medical condition.
If you experienced your loss in the second trimester, it could have happened because of an incompetent cervix. While there are many reasons mothers can lose a pregnancy when it happens in the second trimester, an incompetent cervix can be the cause almost 25 percent of the time, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
What Is an Incompetent Cervix? Also referred to as cervical insufficiency or sometimes as a weakened cervix, an incompetent cervix is the term used to describe a cervix that opens prematurely. Throughout pregnancy, as the baby grows and gets bigger, it puts pressure on the cervix, eventually culminating in the dilation that leads to labor. But for women with an incompetent cervix, this happens prematurely, before the baby is fully ready to be born. While it is a rare condition, its effects can be devastating.
How Do Doctors Check for an Incompetent Cervix? For decades, a woman had to lose two or three babies before she could be a candidate for diagnoses and treatment of an incompetent cervix. Today, doctors can use what's called a serial sonogram to check for a mother's cervical length and ensure it is at the normal length of at least three centimeters. They can also continue monitoring cervical length to see if there's evidence of shortening during pregnancy, and, if so, know they need to take action.
What Are Warning Signs? Unfortunately there are very few if any warning signs or symptoms. However, if a woman has a cervix that's two-and-a-half centimeters or less in length, she may have an incompetent cervix. Likewise, if she has membranes protruding into the internal parts of the cervix (what's called the endocervix), that can be another sign of a problem. More importantly, if a woman has a history of having lost a baby - dilates and delivers, or ruptures her membranes, without any labor pains - she needs to be checked out and she may have cervical insufficiency.
When Should Doctors Be Checking for This? Any time a woman has a history of one or two losses in the second trimester without any labor, doctors should investigate. If she is found on routine second trimester ultrasound checking on fetal growth to have cervical shortening or funneling, it is imperative to check for an incompetent cervix - and to fail to do so borders on malpractice. Healthcare providers have an obligation, when they know a mother is at risk for something, to discuss those risks with her, as well as options for treatment going forward.
If you believe you've experienced an incompetent cervix that was undiagnosed or improperly treated, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Ross Feller Casey.