OBJECTIVE - To examine the relation between cervical dilatation and length and the risk of spontaneous preterm birth, including its subtypes preterm labor and preterm premature rupture of membranes (PROM).
METHODS - Cervical dimensions assessed by clinical examination were recorded prospectively at 24-29 weeks' gestation in 871 subjects with singleton pregnancies who were followed to delivery. Relative risks (RRs) of preterm birth, preterm labor, and preterm PROM were calculated for clinically distinguishable categories of cervical dilatation and length and for cervical score (length minus dilatation). Regression analysis was used to adjust for confounding. Time to delivery from baseline examination was summarized using survival analysis.
RESULTS - There were 73 spontaneous preterm births (8.3%), 46 preterm labors and 27 cases of preterm PROM. All cervical measurements were associated with increased risks of preterm birth, with increasing abnormality more strongly predictive of risk. The adjusted RR for preterm birth with dilatation of at least 0.5 cm was 2.9 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2, 7.3); for length of 1.5 cm or less, the RR was 2.1 (95% CI 1.0, 4.5), and for cervical score less than 2.0, the RR was 2.8 (95% CI 1.4, 5.6). The association with cervical measurements was stronger for preterm PROM than for preterm labor, although precision was limited. These measurements had high specificity (93-99%) and low sensitivity (8-20%) for predicting preterm birth.
CONCLUSION - In asymptomatic women at 24-29 weeks' gestation, greater cervical dilatation and shorter length were associated with increased risk of spontaneous preterm delivery, particularly preterm PROM.