Preterm births continue to be a large problem in the United States, leading to many problems for these children. It is the leading cause of infant mortality in our country. Prevention is always the goal, and today, measuring the cervical length with a transvaginal sonogram may help identify patients who are at a higher risk for preterm births.
Once identified, these patients may benefit from close follow-up plus the progesterone treatments and cervical surgery that are available. Here are some more details:
- The cervix may begin to shorten long before preterm labor or before the preterm rupture of membranes occur.
- The cervical length usually can be measured with the use of a transvaginal sonogram.
- A shortened cervix found before 20 weeks of pregnancy markedly increases the risk of preterm birth. Progesterone treatments and cervical surgery, called a cerclage, may reduce the risk significantly.
- Women with a history of a preterm birth, multiple gestations, or a previous cervical surgery are at a higher risk of early delivery and so may benefit from cervical length measurements.
As always, a dialogue with your health care provider is the first step in receiving the best medical care. For the prevention of a preterm birth, taking the measurement of the cervical length may be part of that discussion.
For more information, check out: Preterm Births – Information You Should Be Aware Of
…..Over the last 30 years, ultrasound has changed dramatically in how we evaluate early pregnancy. Transvaginal sonography has allowed us to assess early gestation with better clarity.
…..The gestational sac is the first visible sign of a normal
intrauterine pregnancy. This should be seen with the transvaginal sonogram by 5 weeks after the last menstrual period. The earliest embryonic structure is the yolk sac, and likewise, this can be seen as early as the end of the 5th week. Evaluating the yolk sac is important because it can point to problems in a pregnancy. If it is not present at this early time, or if the shape is irregular or large, this can be the first sign of a nonviable pregnancy.
…..Near the 6th week from the last menstrual period, the embryo should be seen attached to the yolk sac, and fetal heart activity should be noted between the 6th and 7th week. When the gestational sac is approximately 2 cm, an embryo should be seen, and if it is not identified at this time, a blighted ovum is confirmed.
…..There are specific sonographic signs of a problem pregnancy:
- A small gestational sac around the embryo
- If the embryo does not increase in size by 1 mm per day
- A fetal heart beat at a rate of less than 120 beats per minute after 7 weeks of gestation.
…..Let us end this review on a positive note. If a patient has no abnormal symptoms, normal fetal heart activity, and 7 weeks of gestation has been reached, then there is a 99% chance of a successful pregnancy.