The ultrasound is being conducted at another hospital because it is the only one that can fit in Jay at such short notice. I have totally misjudged the time it will take to get there and we are laughing because I am also lost.
“Mum, what are you doing?”
“I don’t know, the stupid Sat Nav isn’t working properly.” I drive a little further along. “Oo-oo there it is.” We park.
We walk in and the hospital is ALOT quieter than the one we normally attend, although it doesn’t seem as friendly. Jay announces herself at reception. The receptionist ignores us and continues looking at what looks like a roster. I take a seat. Jay looks at me with exasperation on her face. Patience, I mouth to her. Eventually, the woman attends to Jay.
“Jay X!” Gosh that was quick. We pile into the ultrasound room.
“Right, you are 21 weeks pregnant and you had a bleed. Is that right?” Jay nods. “I am going to do a check of baby first, then have a look around for where the bleed might have come from, like the placenta.” Jay looks at me with fear in her eyes. I look at her in a way that I hope reassures her.
The sonographer starts the ultrasound. Wow, we are certainly getting a good look at Baby C. He looks beautiful. He is moving around a lot. “Okay,” the sonographer says, “there are no obvious signs of where the bleed might have come from, but to be honest, that often happens. By the time you come to us for an ultrasound, it often has cleared up.” Jay looks relieved. “But your cervix is looking a little short to me. Do you mind if I do a vaginal ultrasound to get a better look?” Jay looks at me and shakes her head. “Good, just removed your pants. I’ll be back in a tick.”
“What is a short cervix?” Jay asks. I’m already on it, googling it on my phone.
So what does it mean to have a short cervix? Quite simply that: It’s short. During pregnancy, the normally short cervix lengthens to anywhere between an inch and a half (3.8 centimeters) to a little over two inches long (5 centimeters, as measured by ultrasound). Why the increase in length? For one, to increase the distance between your baby and the outside world. For another, to provide a tighter grip on your baby. Occasionally a mom-to-be will have a cervix that measures a good bit shorter — sometimes as little as a half-inch long. When the cervix is that short, the risk of premature cervical effacement (thinning) and dilation — and, therefore, of premature labor — does unfortunately rise.
A short cervix can’t be made to grow, but to ward off an early arrival, a doctor might order strict bed rest toward the end of your pregnancy. In extreme cases, when the cervix measures only 15 to 20 millimeters, he or she may perform a fairly simple yet controversial (because its benefits are still uncertain) procedure called a cerclage. (Essentially, the cervix is sewn together with a surgical stitch. The stitch doesn’t hurt, but, sadly, rules out sex for a while.) Another possible option to ask your doctor about: A recent study discovered that when women with short cervixes were given vaginal progesterone, their risk of delivering prematurely lowered by 42 percent and their babies were less likely to have any complications at birth.
Does this mean Jay could go into premature labour? The sonographer comes back in and inserts the wand into Jay’s vagina. She looks concerned. She pushes down on Jay’s abdomen and takes some measurement. “Yes, it is shortened. I will get the radiologist to have a look at the films and send a report to your obstetrician.”
“How short is it?” I ask.
“Well, it is around 2cm.” I don’t know what that means.
“What does this mean?” Jay asks me.
“It means, according to the internet, that you could go into labour early. You may be put on early bed rest.”
I don’t know if I have to be worried, but I know Jay is looking worried. “It is okay, Jay, let’s just not worry until we know we should be worried.” But I know we are both worried.
A week later Jay receives a phone call from the Young Women’s Clinic. Jay has been transferred from the YMC to the full time care of Bec, the obstetrician. Now, I know it is serious.