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
Let us continue our HPV informational journey with a few essential points:
- HPV infections are almost exclusively acquired from sexual exposure.
- The virus has been detected in multiple sites on both the male and female genital areas.
- The cervix is the most common site for the infection.
- Transmission between the mother and infant has been documented, with exposure during the delivery being suggested as the most common cause of the fetal infection. This is considered a vertical form of transmission. Some studies suggest a vertical transmission rate of about 25% with almost all neonatal infections cleared by the first year of life.
Young women are at a high risk of acquiring STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and of developing the serious complications of untreated chlamydial and gonococcal infections. Almost half of all STIs occur in teenagers and young adults between the ages of 15 and 25. Physical and behavioral factors place the sexually active teenager at an increased risk to develop these infections.
Physically, the cervix is more vulnerable to these infections because it has not fully developed, exposing more susceptible cells to the infections. Since the young woman may be coming into contact with these infectious agents for the first time, her immune defenses are not strong.
Behavioral risk factors include having multiple new sexual partners and not using condoms or not using condoms properly. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a goal to increase the simultaneous use of both condoms and hormonal contraception (birth control pills). This combination of methods is highly effective in preventing a pregnancy and preventing the acquisition of STIs. Yet currently, some studies reveal that only about 5% of adolescent females are using this practice.