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What is cervical insufficiency?

Cervical insufficiency is a condition of pregnancy when the cervix dilates (widens) and effaces (thins) before the pregnancy has reached full term. It can't be prevented and doesn't have a clear, single cause, though some factors may put you more at risk:

  • Previous surgeries on the cervix
  • Smoking
  • Previous sexually transmitted infections
  • Cervical laceration during a previous birth
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES)

Women with none of these risk factors can still experience cervical insufficiency, which is why it is so important to come to your scheduled ultrasounds. The sooner your physician can spot cervical insufficiency, the sooner you can begin discussing a treatment plan.

Our approach

Because of the robust and academic Maternal Fetal Medicine Division at Northwell Health, you will have access to the newest options that are proven to be effective in managing cervical insufficiency. Our Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialists have received additional years of training beyond that of a general OB/GYN doctor, and always use the most current medications, tools and interventions to benefit you and your baby.


Cervical insufficiency can go undiagnosed because it has very few symptoms. In fact, most cases are discovered incidentally through an ultrasound. This does not mean cervical insufficiency has no warning signs.

Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you notice:

  • Vaginal bleeding or pressure
  • Thick mucous discharge from the vagina
  • Cramping
  • Soreness in your back

How is it diagnosed?

Cervical insufficiency is diagnosed with an ultrasound, physical exam or both.

Treatment options

Your physician will come up with a treatment plan based off your medical history, the length of your cervix and how dilated your cervix is. Signs of infection or bleeding will also play a role in determining how to proceed.

In some cases, medication can be used to keep cervical insufficiency in check. In rare cases, the safest route is a cerclage, a surgery performed to strengthen the cervix.

Early detection is important, so always keep your doctor up to date on your symptoms and any changes you feel throughout your pregnancy.

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