New Information About Premature Births and Prevention Measures
I love the words ‘prevention’ and ‘health’ together. I feel that it connotes actions we can take and health problems we never have to deal with. Although World Prematurity Day has come and gone, it is a passion of mine to spread the word about anything that can help bring healthy babies into the world.
Did you know that prematurity is a public health epidemic? There are 13 million pre-term births in the world and ½ million in the U.S. each year. While most pre-term births survive, it can have long-term health consequences for those babies, and there is no accounting for the emotional toll it takes on families.
A short cervix is recognized as a cause for pre-term births, but with no known treatments, measuring your cervix didn’t really matter. In the past year, new research shows there is something that can be done about it. It turns out that measurement is necessary and you must ask for it, and moreover, time is of the essence.
There are two ways to measure the cervix. The most common is a transvaginal ultrasound – this is the ultrasound inserted into the vagina and it’s usually used at the beginning of a pregnancy. It’s expensive from an insurance perspective and unless there are problems, this procedure will probably only happen once early on in the pregnancy.
The other is fairly new and involves a low tech speculum-type device called Cervilenz. It’s a cost-effective device that can be used by a midwife, nurse practitioner or obstetritian to measure cervical length. And if you have any insurance hurdles to overcome, this can be added to an approved visit, versus having to get special approval for another transvaginal ultrasound.
So, here are the brass tacks: You need a cervix measurement taken at 20 weeks and 24 weeks of pregnancy. If your cervix is less than 20 millimeters, then you may need some treatment to prevent premature labor. Forty millimeters is the average cervix length at halfway through your pregnancy. If you are at risk for a shortened cervix, you may be prescribed daily progesterone suppositories that are safe and can be inserted at home. According to the specialists I spoke with, progesterone helps stop cervical shortening when treatments begin BEFORE 24 weeks.
Because 1 out of 8 pregnancies in the U.S. are at risk for a premature birth, the risk factors are high enough that all women should have their cervical length checked at 20 and 23 weeks so that progesterone can be started if there is a problem. For more information, the people at Cervilenz has created this website to help: http://www.measure2besure.com/.
Because an ounce of prevention…
Michelle is a Senior Vice President of Mom Central Consulting NYC. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two kids under the age of three.