Cervical stenosis. Now, there’s a fancy, intimidating sounding medical term, right? Let’s take a bit of the scariness out of it and replace it with some knowledge, so if this is something you experience, you will be equipped to face and treat it head on!
What Is It?
Simply put, cervical stenosis, is the (at times intense) narrowing of the lower part of the uterus, i.e. the passageway through the cervix. A stenosis is actually any passageway in the body that becomes narrower than it naturally should be, and this passageway just happens to be the cervix.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Stenosis?
There are many possible signs and symptoms, varying dependent upon whether the cervix canal is only partially or is fully obstructed in addition to one’s menopausal status. A woman who is pre-menopausal may experience a buildup of blood in the uterus which can lead to its own host of infections, pain, and bleeding.
Postmenopause can present its own challenges in that outward symptoms may not be apparent, but the condition is still present.
What Can It Cause, Long-term?
A narrowed cervix has the possibility of negatively affecting natural fertility as it creates a barrier and obstacle for semen to make its way into the uterus. This extends beyond natural conception, too, as the cervix may be too narrow even to accept intrauterine insemination (IU) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) as alternatives. There is also an increased risk for endometriosis that can arise from this.
There can be any number of reasons for cervical stenosis to occur. You can be born with a narrowed cervix or it can arise as a result of another condition. Menopause, for instance, can cause this due to the thinning of the cervical tissue that occurs. Cervical or endometrial cancer can also lead to stenosis as that also tends to affect the lining of the uterus.
Surgery can be another culprit. Any surgery that involves the cervix has the potential to lead to stenosis happening, as well as any other medical procedures that affect the uterine lining. Radiation therapy, too, can thin the walls and tissue and kickstart the narrowing.
What Treatments Are Available?
First things first: Consult your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms or if you have reason to suspect you have cervical stenosis. Your doctor will be able to make the probability call as well as rule out other possibilities such as cancer. If your doctor cannot insert an instrument into your cervix to obtain a sample for a Pap or HPV test, that will generally tip them off.
Once the necessary tests and evaluations are done, your doctor will confer with you on the necessity of widening your cervix. Stenosis is generally only treated if women present symptoms or wish to conceive. The cervix can be outwardly dilated by inserting a small metal rod through the opening, then inserting further, progressively larger dilators. The cervix will be kept open by the insertion of a cervical stint – a small tube, essentially – inside the cervix for a few weeks.