2 The condition, current treatments and procedure

2 The condition, current treatments and procedure

The condition


Cervical incompetence may be caused by a congenital weakness of the cervix, or previous obstetric or gynaecological trauma. It is characterised by painless dilatation of the cervix in the second or third trimester, followed by second trimester miscarriage or premature rupture of the membranes and preterm delivery. The condition is usually diagnosed after 1 or more late second trimester pregnancy losses or early third trimester delivery, and after other causes have been excluded.

Current treatments


Cervical incompetence is traditionally treated by transvaginal cervical cerclage. This involves placing a strong suture or tape around the cervix, via the vagina, and tightening it to keep the cervix closed. The procedure is typically done at the end of the first trimester or the beginning of the second trimester. The suture or tape is then usually removed at around 37 weeks of gestation to allow delivery.


Cervical cerclage using a transabdominal approach may be needed if transvaginal cerclage is technically difficult or has proved ineffective. With this approach, caesarean section is necessary to deliver the baby.

The procedure


Laparoscopic cervical cerclage can be done during pregnancy or in women who are not pregnant. Under general anaesthesia, the peritoneal cavity is insufflated with carbon dioxide through a needle inserted into the umbilicus. Several small incisions are made to provide access for the laparoscope and surgical instruments. In women who are not pregnant, a dilator may initially be inserted into the cervix through the vagina for uterine manipulation. The bladder is dissected away from the uterus and a suture or tape is secured around the cervical isthmus, above the cardinal and uterosacral ligaments. As with the open transabdominal approach, caesarean section is necessary to deliver the baby. The suture or tape may be left in place for future pregnancies.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)