Most pregnancies are normal, healthy, and reach full term—but somewhere between nine and 10 percent of women deliver their babies early (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). In fact, preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death in children under age 5 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
For about 1 percent of expectant mothers who experience preterm labor, the cause is a condition called cervical insufficiency, formerly known as cervical incompetence. In cervical insufficiency, the cervix begins to dilate (widen) and efface (shorten and thin) during the second trimester.
While no woman wants to deal with a complication in pregnancy, the good news is that when cervical insufficiency is suspected (based on prior pregnancy history, or findings seen on ultrasound or physical exam), treatments are available. Cervical cerclage, a minor surgical procedure, is an effective and safe treatment option that can help prolong the pregnancy, ideally to full term. Another type of treatment involves supplementation with the hormone progesterone.
”Preterm birth is a common problem that we are constantly striving to address, and cervical cerclage is one of the ways we can prevent it,” says Katherine Kohari, MD, a high-risk pregnancy specialist with Yale Medicine.