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Cervical incompetence, incompetent cervix or an insufficient cervix refers to a cervix that becomes dilated before a pregnancy has gone full term. It occurs when weak cervical tissue causes or contributes to premature birth or the loss of an otherwise healthy pregnancy.
In many women dilation and effacement of the cervix may occur without pain or uterine contractions
Normally before pregnancy the cervix (the lower part of the uterus or womb that connects to the vagina) is closed and rigid. As the body prepares for birth the cervix softens, decreases in length and dilates (opens). In the case of an incompetent cervix the cervix begins to open too soon with the pressure of the pregnancy causing premature birth.
An incompetent cervix can be difficult to diagnose and treat. If the cervix opens early medication is available, bed rest or a procedure called cervical cerclage.
A vaginal pessary can be used in the case of an incompetent cervix and is especially useful for women at risk of pre-term delivery.
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