Cervicitis and Pregnancy

Understand cervicitis during pregnancy

Cervicitis is an inflammation of the lining of the cervix, the lower segment or tip of the uterus. It is a common gynecological disorder that can affect a large percentage of women, up to 50%, at some point in their lives. Chronic cervicitis is common after childbirth but can also occur during pregnancy due to increased hormone levels causing stronger blood flow into the cervix.

If left untreated, cervicitis during pregnancy may lead to problems in delivery, premature delivery, miscarriage, or transmission of infection to newborns during delivery which can lead to more serious conditions for the baby. Luckily, the condition can be easily diagnosed by a physician and treated with a variety of medications and procedures.

Cause of Cervicitis

Cervicitis is most commonly caused by a sexually transmitted infection such as herpes simplex 2 or genital herpes, Chlamydia, trichomoniasis, human papillomavirus (HPV), and gonorrhea. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomonas are the three most common infectious causes of cervicitis. It can also be caused by an infection from other factors like an allergy to latex or spermicide, sensitivity to chemicals found in tampons, or even just abnormal growth of normal vaginal bacteria.

The infection may also be caused by injury to the cervix through the improper insertion of devices such as cervical caps, diaphragms or a pessary (a device used to support the uterus, vaginal bladder, or rectum). Certain medical conditions such as hormonal imbalances and cancer treatments like radiation therapy can also cause the cervix to become inflamed.

Certain behaviors will put women at a higher risk of cervicitis:

  • High-risk sexual behavior (i.e. multiple partners or sex without condoms)
  • A history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Sex at an early age
  • Sexual partners with an STI or those who have engaged in high-risk sexual behavior
  • Overuse of douches
  • Improper placement of tampons
  • Having the condition in the past (women who have already had cervicitis)

Symptoms of Cervicitis

Very often women who have cervicitis will not experience any symptoms at all and won't be able to tell that they have the condition.

Symptoms that may be experienced include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding (such as after sex) or spotting between menstrual periods
  • Gray or pale yellow vaginal discharge that is persistent and often accompanied by an unpleasant odor
  • Vaginal pain
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Backaches (typically lower back pain)
  • Pain during or after vaginal intercourse and/or spotting after sex
  • Itching or irritation of the external genitals
  • Burning sensation during urination or difficulty urinating (usually only if accompanied by an infection of the urethra)
  • Occasionally fever and nausea occur if the infection spreads into your system though this is rare

Cervicitis and Pregnancy

Cervicitis can be a serious issue in pregnancy not only because of the discomfort but because of the risk of premature labor due to therapeutic measures such as douches. Since the cervix functions as a barrier between the vagina and womb in pregnancy and labor, treating this condition in pregnancy is vitally important. Cervicitis caused by a sexually transmitted disease can lead to miscarriage, premature labor and can cause eye and lung infections in the newborn.

If you're pregnant and think you may have cervicitis, it's important to get treated as early in the pregnancy as possible. Women with new or multiple partners during pregnancy should get tested for STDs and HIV during pregnancy to protect themselves and their unborn baby.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Cervicitis

A doctor determines the treatment of cervicitis based upon a patient's health. Generally, a pap smear and a culture are performed along with a general pelvic exam to look for discharge and redness or swelling of the cervix.

The doctor will also likely want to discuss the patient's sexual history such as number of partners, having sex without a condom, or types of contraceptives used if engaging in safe sex. These questions can help a physician determine whether further testing for an STD is needed. However, if pregnant, a physician very frequently will automatically test for an STD in order to protect the unborn child. A woman's partner may also need to be tested to ensure that the woman does not contract another infection.

Physicians will usually prescribe a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics, antifungal, or antiviral medications. Many homeopathic or home treatments do not work and pregnant women should always seek the help of a trained physician. For prolonged cervicitis, a physician may recommend a procedure such as cryosurgery or laser treatment to destroy abnormal tissue. Healing from these procedures can take anywhere from six to eight weeks.

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Last Reviewed:
June 15, 2017
Last Updated:
October 11, 2017