Preterm labour. Cervical function and prematurity

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The cervix maintains the fetus in situ during pregnancy and dilates during labour to allow delivery of the baby. Congenital or iatrogenically-induced structural abnormalities of the cervix are associated with an increased risk of preterm birth. The role of cervical infection is less clear. Cervical studies may be useful in the prediction of preterm delivery: both a shortened cervical length identified on transvaginal ultrasound examination and an increased level of fetal fibronectin in cervico-vaginal secretions are associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery. In singleton pregnancy, cervical cerclage reduces the risk of preterm birth by 25%. There is no evidence of a reduction in neonatal mortality or morbidity, and the beneficial effects of preterm birth reduction have to be set against the increased risk of maternal infection. Neither the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) nor the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has unequivocally endorsed cervical cerclage. Further work is required to define the role of the cervix in prediction and prevention of spontaneous preterm birth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791-806
Number of pages16
JournalBest Practice and Research: Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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