The cervix normally stays tightly closed throughout pregnancy. It changes during delivery when it softens and begins to open to let the baby through. Sometimes, during the second or third trimester, the cervix begins to open and thin out before term is reached. This is known as cervical incompetence and it can lead to premature birth.
When is cervical stitching required?
Cervical stitching (cerclage) is used to treat cervical incompetence. It is usually offered to women who have already had a premature birth or a late miscarriage (during the second trimester) in order to prevent it from happening again. Additionally, if the cervix has shortened before 23 weeks, this technique can be used to try to save the pregnancy.
What does it involve?
Cervical stitching involves placing a stitch in the uterus to keep it closed. It is usually performed after 14 weeks of pregnancy; the ideal time is between 14 and 16 weeks.
The procedure is performed under general anaesthetic and usually takes between 20 to 30 minutes. You will usually be able to go home the following day.
The stitch is removed at around 37 weeks of pregnancy, before the first contractions. Removal does not require an anaesthetic.