Taking care of yourself throughout your pregnancy is the best possible prevention for preterm birth. This means avoiding habits like overeating and smoking are recommended. Sometimes, women who remain healthy still deliver preterm without reasonable explanation. However, there are studies suggesting a very obvious and physical predictor as to whether or not you will deliver your baby preterm.

Upon delivery, your cervix will slowly open up and dilate so that your baby can be pushed out. Some women have a shorter cervix than others, and this physical characteristic might change the course of natural labor. Women with a shorter cervix are more likely to give birth preterm. Preterm labor, defined as birth before 37-weeks of pregnancy, is more common in these women because it is easier for the baby to fit through the birth canal even before it is fully dilated. The amniotic sac will begin bearing down on the opening as the baby grows heavier, and labor contractions could begin.

When you become pregnant, you should consider getting an ultrasound to determine your cervical length. If you know your cervix is shorter than normal, you can prepare yourself for preterm labor. Even if you don’t take the measures to prevent it, preterm labor will be safer if you and your physician are prepared to take on the challenge. If your physician determines that there is a good chance you might deliver preterm, he or she might suggest you get a cervical cerclage, or a stitching of the cervix to prevent labor before the 37th week. You may also be advised to take bed rest in your last trimester to prevent any unnecessary pressure on the birth canal.

A short cervix is probably not a feature you’ve ever included in a physical description of yourself, but when you become pregnant, it could become the difference between a preterm infant and a baby that has grown to term. Talk with your physician about the length of your cervix to find out whether or not it could pose a problem someday.

Source:  Khandelwal, Dr. Meena. Cervical Length Screening to Reduce Preterm Birth.  Ob.Gyn. News. 3 October 2012.