The Curious Case of the Incompetent Cervix

woman in despair

In the beginning of this week, my gynecologist prescribed bed rest and progesterone-based pills to me, due to my cervix being some 5mm shorter than it should be at this point. While my husband got very scared, I didn’t – I understood we caught it early on, and I firmly trust that if I obey the bed rest rules and take my pills, we’ll keep it under control. For some reason, however, I did start Googling it, curious as to why that even happens in the first place, and got flooded with a simple phrase everywhere I went: incompetent cervix.

Now, this phrase bothered me even before it started applying to me, but now it triggered me far more. I started avoiding articles that call it that, but soon found out I wouldn’t have many trustworthy options that way. And that got me thinking:

Why Are We Okay With Being Called Incompetent?

Over something we cannot control? “Chill out, you snowflake Millennial”, people might be thinking, “it’s a medical term, stop taking it so personally”. But that’s precisely my point! Sure, getting pregnant, giving birth, that’s all perfectly natural, ain’t no denying it. But why do the doctors, the minute something goes wrong, decide to say “your body is incompetent to make you a mother and you should be ashamed of yourself”? Because, let’s be honest, it’s exactly what this phrase is saying. As a mother-to-be, it makes me feel so pathetic, so weak, and like a downright failure to have a doctor tell me an essential part of me is incompetent to keep my baby safe. What’s wrong with calling it a weak cervix? Short cervix? Soft cervix? Why do we accept such an ugly adjective, as if carrying a human being inside us wasn’t hard enough already?

And it’s not just the incompetent cervix, either.

When men’s sperm counts are low, we don’t tell them they have a case of incompetent scrotum, do we? And yet, when women are having trouble getting pregnant, they’re barren, such an old, ugly word. As if the whole world expects us to be perfectly functioning by default! And all that despite our genetics, the environment going to shit, all the toxins, and whatnot.

Why Incompetent Cervix Is Problematic Terminology

Now, granted, this isn’t my diagnosis – my cervix is just a bit shortened, but not enough to cause actual concern. Regardless, I kept seeing this word pop up over and over and over. My biggest issue with it, I believe, is that it rings as if we are somehow to blame for that state. I am on bed rest, day 5, because I have contractions, coupled with this little guy being too low and pushing a bit hard on my cervix. So my question is: because there’s so much pressure on it, it’s only logical it’s going to be deemed incompetent, right? In comparison to the perfectly competent one of pregnancies where the baby isn’t low, and there are no contractions?

And even if your cervix is naturally soft, that’s all there is to it. Genes, operations, infections, for whatever reason, it got weaker, and now you’ll have to take extra precautions.

You may think I’m exaggerating, and if so, please let me know! But what I’m trying to say is – with all the pressure already on pregnant women having to survive the first trimester, not gain too much weight, not have any stretch marks etc. etc., the last thing we need is to feel like shit for being called incompetent over something we have no control over. Rather, we should be proud of ourselves for building a baby inside of us and doing everything we possibly can to keep them safe.


A 27-year-old married mom-to-be, trying to have it all. I have a full-time job I enjoy, a home I’m in love with, and plenty of hobbies I try my best to have the time for. A psychologist by vocation, with the goal of helping young women live their best lives.

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