Cervical ectropion – often known as cervical erosion or eroded cervix – sounds pretty scary. And painful.
But rest assured: the name for the condition is far scarier than it is, and though it’s fairly common in pregnancy, you likely won’t need to worry too much about it.
However, it IS good to know what it means for you and your pregnancy, as well as your future fertility – just so you’ve got all the facts. Here’s everything you need to know…
Cervical ectropion – what it is, symptoms, causes and how it affects pregnancy
What is cervical ectropion?
Cervical ectropion involves cells from the cervical canal growing at the neck of the cervix – making it rough, inflamed and prone to bleeding.
Don’t panic, though, it’s not cancerous. Cells growing somewhere they shouldn’t is a worry and a half, we know, but put that thought out of your mind.
You’ll also be pleased to know it has NO impact on whether or not you’ll get cervical cancer in the future.
So, does cervical ectropion diagnosis doesn’t mean your cervix is eroding?
Naturally, a condition nicknamed ‘cervical erosion’ brings to mind the image of your cervix eroding.
Fortunately, that’s really not true. Your cervix definitely isn’t eroding. And to be honest, we’re don’t even know that name came from.
At a guess, we’d say it could have come from the idea of ‘roughness’ and inflammation.
What are the symptoms of cervical ectropion?
Often there are no symptoms for cervical erosion, but where there are symptoms, they include:
- pain or bleeding after sex
- spotting or bleeding in-between periods
- an odourless white/yellow vaginal discharge.
It’s a common cause of vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, especially later in pregnancy: the bleeding is usually bright red and low volume.
(If you get any unusual vaginal bleeding anytime, you should check in with your GP – as vaginal bleeding’s also a symptom of other conditions.)
How is cervical ectropion diagnosed?
As symptoms don’t always show up or seem obvious, it’s tricky to diagnose – that’s why its often picked up during smear tests or general pelvic exams.
Cervical ectropion can make it more difficult to get a clear sample, so you may be called back for a repeat smear.
However, doctors won’t be concerned by a simple case of cervical erosion unless it’s causing an uncomfortable amount of pain, bleeding or discharge.
What causes cervical ectropion?
Cervical ectropion can be caused by a bunch of things – most of which we can’t really avoid – including:
- hormonal changes (such as caused by pregnancy or the contraceptive pill)
- items inserted into the vagina (such as tampons, barrier contraceptives or a speculum)
- several sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea
- vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis.
Who can get cervical ectropion?
It’s pretty common, especially during pregnancy. These are the 3 groups more likely to have it:
- pregnant women
- women taking contraceptives with oestrogen
- young women.
Does cervical ectropion affect your pregnancy or endanger your baby?
If you’re pregnant and diagnosed with ‘eroded cervix’, then it’s most likely that hormonal changes during pregnancy are the cause of the cervical inflammation.
Please rest assured that it won’t interfere with your pregnancy in the slightest, and it doesn’t affect your baby at all.
However, if you’re experiencing vaginal bleeding after intercourse, then your doctor may well recommend that you wait until you’re safely in the 2nd trimester before having sex again.
Whatever the situation, after your diagnosis, you’ll be checked for the infections that could be a possible cause (like chlamidya, gonorrhea, bacterial vaginosis and syphilis).
Some of these CAN have an impact on pregnancy and labour, so best to find out and get them treated.
Does cervical ectropion affect fertility?
You’ll also be pleased to know, if you’re hoping to conceive, that cervical ectropion doesn’t affect your ability to get pregnant.
How is cervical ectropion treated?
Unless you’re one of the unlucky minority whose symptoms really make a negative impact, cervical ectropion is usually left completely untreated.
However, in those extreme cases where you are finding dealing with symptoms difficult, your doc may recommend a treatment called cauterisation.
Again, this sounds really scary! It’s not: basically it just takes care of all the inflammation using heat, laser therapy or freezing techniques.
This isn’t some big op, either, it can be done in a doc’s office under local anaesthetic. You’ll need a month or so to heal your cervix afterwards… but of course, your doc will explain everything to you if you need treatment.
Share your story
Have you got cervical ectropion – and has the condition affected you at all? We’d be very curious to hear your experience in the comments below.
Images: Getty Images