Janett Walker almost gave up trying to have children. After suffering four miscarriages and losing a daughter who was born prematurely, who would blame her? But then Janett and her husband Graham found a doctor who knew of a procedure that just might support her insufficient cervix and allow her to carry a child to term. She received a transabdominal cerclage (TAC), or a bionic cervix, and now she has a beautiful baby girl.
What is a bionic cervix?
A bionic cervix is a supportive band placed around the cervix that offers more support than stitches. It is inserted laparoscopically through a small incision in the abdomen. While it leaves a small hole so the cervix can perform its other biological functions, the band mostly closes the cervical opening. This prevents it from opening during pregnancy, helping the developing baby stay inside until it can survive outside the womb.
Why do women get a bionic cervix?
Most women who get a bionic cervix suffer from cervical insufficiency.
What is cervical insufficiency?
Having an incompetent or insufficient cervix means that the cervix will not stay closed under the weight and pressure of a full-term pregnancy. As many as 1 in 100 pregnancies end early and tragically because of this problem, and up to 25% of second trimester miscarriages have their origins in this problem.
What causes cervical insufficiency?
Many things can cause cervical insufficiency. In most women it's genetic, while a few cases are caused by previous uterine or cervical surgery. While it is easy to test for the problem, most obstetricians don't. The problem is rare enough that it's not seen as financially viable to test every woman. In fact, women tend to have multiple second trimester miscarriages before they're tested for the condition.
Are there other ways to treat cervical insufficiency?
In the case of minor to moderate cervical insufficiency, a doctor can make some supporting stitches around the cervix that will support it enough to allow a baby to make it full-term. This is called a transvaginal cerclage and is less invasive than the transabdominal cerclage. For women like Janett, though, even this isn't enough.
What are the advantages to a bionic cervix?
For some women, a bionic cervix is the only way they can carry a baby to term. Many women also see it as an advantage that the bionic cervix does not have to come out when the baby is born. If a woman plans to have more than one child, this means that she doesn't have to have a new one put in place each time.
What are the disadvantages to a bionic cervix?
While the installation procedure is done laparoscopically, it's still somewhat invasive. In addition, having a bionic cervix necessitates delivering by cesarean section, usually as soon as the baby is considered full term. Since this is a major abdominal surgery, many women consider this aspect a disadvantage of the bionic cervix.
Should I get a bionic cervix?
If you have had several second trimester miscarriages, talk to your doctor about being tested for cervical insufficiency. If this is the cause of your problems, have another conversation with your doctor about treatment options. Many doctors will want to try the less invasive transvaginal cerclage first. If you continue to miscarry or have severe cervical insufficiency, then it's time to consider the bionic cervix.
If you're interested in finding out more about getting a bionic cervix or hearing the stories of women who've had them, check out the following sites: