The cervix plays a key role in a woman’s pregnancy. It connects the uterus to the vagina, helping to protect the womb and allowing the baby to pass through to the birth canal when it’s time for delivery. Unfortunately, pregnancy can have many adverse side effects on the cervix. Preexisting conditions can also affect the pregnancy, causing premature labor, miscarriage, and other complications.
Many risks can be detected early via regular prenatal appointments with an obstetrician. Ultrasounds, physical examinations, and other tools can help doctors detect signs and symptoms of any adverse conditions so they can be treated or managed before the pregnancy comes to term. If a doctor fails to properly care for a patient, he or she may be held liable for medical malpractice.
Cervical Problems During Pregnancy: Cervical Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, women who have a full-term pregnancy when they’re under the age of 17 are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer compared to women who do not have a child until they’re 25 or older. Additionally, women who have delivered three or more full-term babies also have a higher risk of cancer.
Reasons for these increased risks are generally only speculative. Some experts, for example, point to unprotected sex, which could have exposed the women to HPV and other viruses.
Pregnancy may affect a woman’s risk of cervical cancer, and, conversely, having cancer prior to conceiving can affect pregnancy. Cervical issues during pregnancy, such as scarring from surgery or other cancer treatments, can make it difficult and painful to open.
There are several treatments for cervical cancer, including:
- radiation therapy;
- removal of the ovaries;
- Fallopian tube removal; and
- removal of lymph nodes.
Treatment depends on how early the cancer is caught and how much it has spread; pregnancy may affect the treatment approach as well. If doctors improperly manage this or other medical conditions, women may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit in Ohio.
Cervical Problems During Pregnancy: Cysts and Polyps
Another potential cervical issue during pregnancy is the presence or possible development of a cyst, or fluid-filled sac. Cysts may develop on the ovaries, too.
These are typically benign and may not adversely affect the pregnancy. If the cyst begins to cause the woman pain or it continues to grow, the doctor may choose to remove it, via laparoscopy or laparotomy surgery, after the woman is at least halfway through the pregnancy’s term. Removal of cysts before this point may increase risk of miscarriage.
In the event a cyst appears and becomes twisted on the stem of a woman’s ovary, it may be removed immediately, regardless of the current stage in pregnancy. These could cause serious damage to the ovary in the long run.
Small tumors called polyps are another potential cervical problem during pregnancy; they may develop along the wall of the woman’s cervix. These often appear because of the hormonal changes pregnancy brings, which increase blood flow to the cervix and can cause a congestion of blood vessels in that area.
Polyps also can develop because of:
- increased estrogen levels;
- cervical inflammation; and
Cervical polyps are usually benign, though occasionally they can be malignant and lead to cervical cancer. When recognized during pregnancy, it is possible to remove polyps through a variety of methods, though it may only be recommended if they are very large or abnormally shaped.
Improper performance of a medical procedure, however, could lead women in Cleveland to consult medical malpractice lawyers in Ohio if the doctor acted negligently.
Cervical Problems During Pregnancy: Endometriosis
Endometriosis is another potential cervical issue during pregnancy.
This is a condition in which the lining of the uterus grows into other areas, such as the:
- bowel; or
- surrounding tissues.
While pregnancy is not a known cause of endometriosis, women who suffer it can have trouble conceiving and experience difficult pregnancies. It may lead to infertility in many women.
According to a study by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden that was published in 2009, endometriosis increases the risk of a premature birth in pregnant women. Currently, there is no cure for endometriosis, but it can be easily managed and treated.
Typical treatments for endometriosis include:
- hormone therapy;
- contraceptive pills;
- pain medication;
- surgery; and
Again, failure to properly address this issue could leave doctors liable for claims of medical malpractice, which lawyers in Ohio can help women pursue.
Cervical Problems During Pregnancy: Incompetent Cervix
Put simply, cervical incompetence means the woman’s cervix is insufficient in size, strength or some other factor, making it difficult to support a full-term pregnancy.
Cervical incompetence may lead to:
- premature dilating and effacing;
- second-trimester miscarriage;
- early water breaks; and
- pre-term delivery.
Those at the highest risk for cervical incompetence are women who have had:
- cone biopsies or LEEP done on their cervix;
- a second-trimester miscarriage;
- an abnormally short cervix;
- an injured cervix; or
- mothers that used the drug DES, an estrogen replacement hormone, while pregnant.
Once transvaginal ultrasounds begin at 16 weeks, doctors may be able to recognize a short cervix or other symptoms and take preventative action. One common treatment is to perform a cerclage, during which the doctor reinforces the cervix’s strength with a band of thread.
Failure to properly address cervical problems during pregnancy may result in pursuit of a claim of medical malpractice, with which lawyers in Ohio may assist.
Cervical Problems During Pregnancy: Infection
Cervicitis, an infection and inflammation in the cervix, is fairly common, it can be caused by:
- a sexually transmitted disease;
- birth control devices; or
- cancer treatments.
While there may be minor symptoms such as discharge or pelvic pain when cervicitis is present, often, the victim may be completely unaware she has this condition.
When a woman contracts cervicitis during pregnancy, it can have dire consequences:
- infecting the fetus;
- complicating the birth;
- ectopic pregnancy;
- cervical cancer;
- pelvic inflammatory disease; and
- chronic pain.
Cervicitis can be treated, however, and is usually done by using antibiotics, antiviral medications and antifungals. It is important that the infection is addressed properly. Of course, if it is not, women may consult medical malpractice lawyers in Ohio to discuss filing a claim for damages if they or their child are negatively affected.
Cervical Problems During Pregnancy: Malformation
Malformation within a woman’s uterus or cervix is another potential cervical problem during pregnancy that can cause major complications, even leading to an increased risk of miscarriage. Some of these malformations are present from the time a woman was born, while others are developed over time.
Common cervical or uterine malformations include:
- Uterine septum, in which the septum, a band of tissue dividing the uterus, does not get enough blood flow. This malformation may make miscarriage likely. It can be treated with surgery and is present from birth.
- Bicornuate uterus, in which the uterus is heart-shaped. This malformation is present from birth and can cause preterm labor.
- Unicornuate uterus, in which the uterus is horn-shaped. This can increase the chance of an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or premature birth.
- Fibroids, which are small lumps that develop in the cervix. These can affect the shape of the cervix and lead to miscarriage.
- Malformations due to DES, a synthetic form of estrogen.
Malformations in the cervix and uterus can cause a number of cervical issues. Inadequate room or abnormally shaped organs can cause the baby to be delivered too early or in a breeched, transverse or other dangerous position. These malformations can often be corrected through surgery, though some, such as the unicornuate uterus, may not be improved.
Can I File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Pregnant women should seek medical attention regularly in order to recognize signs of cervical issues. This can help prevent undue complications and ensure the overall health of both mother and child.
If, on the other hand, your doctor failed to recognize, prevent, or treat signs of risks or complications during pregnancy, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim. An expert can determine whether your doctor acted in a manner in which other reasonable professionals would not have acted. Attorneys Chris Mellino and Tom Robenalt welcome you to contact our Cleveland office with any questions you may have about treatment you received during pregnancy, possible neglect, or a potential claim. You may also download or request Chris’ free, easy-to-read guide to filing a claim in Ohio.