Reference to an abnormal cervix can encompass numerous things, though it typically refers to the position of the cervix in the body. The most common forms of an abnormal cervix are a posterior cervix, also known as a tilted cervix, and a high cervix. There are other forms of abnormal cervices, including an incompetent cervix and a precancerous cervix, which are much more serious conditions. The severity of these conditions varies, though they can affect a woman during her menstrual cycle, when trying to conceive and during pregnancy.
While the cervix is typically anterior, meaning it points toward a woman’s belly, a posterior cervix is pointed toward a woman’s backside. This type of abnormal cervix can make conception more difficult than usual, because it makes it more challenging for the sperm to make it through the entrance of the cervix to the uterus. This condition also can make labor more difficult, increasing the risk of Caesarean section (C-section), because the baby’s head may get stuck while trying to leave the birth canal.
A high cervix simply means the uterus is located higher in the pelvic cavity than normal. This condition, while having no real effect on conception or pregnancy, can make pelvic exams difficult. A high cervix can be located higher than a speculum can reach, making a woman’s yearly pelvic exam and pelvic exams during pregnancy much more uncomfortable than usual.
An incompetent cervix is typically diagnosed during pregnancy and means the cervix is not strong enough to withstand the weight of an unborn baby. This condition, also known as a weakened cervix, can lead to miscarriage or premature delivery. An incompetent cervix only occurs in 1 percent to 2 percent of pregnancies, and can be caused by a prior difficult birth, surgery that damaged the cervix, or a birth defect.
A precancerous cervix is possibly one of the most serious forms of abnormal cervix. Also known as cervical dysplasia, this condition describes the appearance of abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix, which indicates a progression toward cervical cancer. While it can take up to 10 years for a precancerous cervix to become cancerous, immediate treatment is necessary to ensure cervical cancer does not develop.
An abnormal cervix does not ensure that a woman will have any issues with her menstrual cycle, conception or pregnancy. It does, however, make such issues more likely. Regular pap smears and pelvic exams are the best way to determine whether a woman has an abnormal cervix and to ensure she has every opportunity to protect her reproductive health.