Mercy’s Dr. Robert Atlas, OB/GYN, Discusses Shrinking Cervix as Risk Factor for Pre-Term Birth

April 17, 2017
Mercy Bunting Center

Preventing a preterm birth is very important during pregnancy.

That is why prenatal care is so crucial. One way doctors monitor mothers-to-be is by measuring their cervical length, because a shrinking cervix can make a woman give birth too soon.

Since her daughter, Scout, was born, Debbie Porter said life has been pure joy.

“She just wakes up happy,” Porter said. “It's a relief.”

Scout is Porter’s third child, and admittedly was her most difficult pregnancy.

“I was scared,” Porter said. “I was scared.”

Porter had a high-risk pregnancy. Her son, Bear, was born early, so when she was pregnant with Scout, doctors monitored her closely.

“At 18 weeks, they started to see my cervix was shrinking,” Porter said. “I think I was close to 20 weeks and they saw that it was significantly shortened and it was a risk to the baby.”

According to Mercy Medical Center’s Dr. Robert Atlas, OB/GYN, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology with Mercy’s Family Childbirth & Children’s Center, patients are always surprised when they hear they have cervical insufficiency, also known as a shrinking cervix.

"The cervix changes overtime during pregnancy and we see a decrease in cervical length over time, which is normal factor,” Dr. Atlas said. “For some women it decreases much more rapidly, and in those patients, there's an increased risk of premature based on that.”

Medications can reduce the risk factor, but when there's a history like Porter has, a procedure called cerclage helps prolong the pregnancy.

“She's such an amazing gift of joy and love in our family,” Porter said. “I thank God for her everyday and I'm so glad we did that surgery, absolutely.”

For Dr. Atlas, seeing Scout be a healthy baby is the payoff for him.

“Seeing that baby in Debbie’s hand is the ultimate benefit in what we do," Dr. Atlas said.

View Mercy’s Dr. Robert Atlas, OB/GYN’s interview regarding shrinking or disappearing cervix and pre-term birth issues. 

Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit, MDMercyMedia on FacebookTwitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.

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