What Exercises Can I Do With an Incompetent Cervix?

July 1st, 2010

I recently received an-e-mail from a mama who had just gone on bedrest with an incompetent cervix at 30 weeks.”What exercises, if any, can I do with an incompetent cervix,” she asked?

An incompetet cervix is one of the more common reasons pregnant mamas are prescribed bed rest. While the rates of incompetent cervix are thought to be low, no one is exactly sure how many women are affected by incompetent cervices during pregnancy. An incompetent cervix can manifest in one of three ways:

  • Opening of the cervical os more than 2.5 cm during the second trimester
  • Thinning and shortening of the cervix (effacing)  in the second trimester or early third trimester
  • Thinning or opening (funneling) of the cervical opening closest to the baby

The treatment for incompetent cervix is cerclage (surgically placing a stitch through the cerix to hold it closed), bed rest, or a combination of the two.

Being prescribed bed rest puts a mama at risk for blood clots in the legs, muscle atophy and overall loss of strength and cardiovascular conditioning. Most women who are prescribed bed rest should also be prescribed-or at least advised about-exercises that they can do to maintain muscle strentgth and tone as well as to reduce the physical effects if prolonged inactivity. However, it has been my experience that many women prescribed bed rest receive little or no instruction on what they can do to exercise their bodies while on bed rest. This is due in part because many obstetricians don’t know what types of exercises are safe for women on prescribed bed rest. A lucky few mamas will have a consultation or two with physical therapists. But the vast majority of mamas who go on prescribed bed rest will receive no exercise instruction. For this reason I produced Bedrest Fitness when I was pregnant during my second pregnancy.Bedrest Fitness is a set of modified prenatal exercises designed specifically for pregnant women on prescribed bed rest.

A mama with an incompetent cervix should avoid any movements or exercises that put pressure on the cervix and many women will be instructed to remain recumbant in bed or on the sofa. But if you think about it, that leaves your arms and legs free to move. Mamas on bed rest with an incompetent cervix should perform a variety of arm and leg exercises daily to maintain steady bloodflow and adequate circulation back to the heart-especially from the legs. Leg exercises should include:

  • Leg Ab/Adduction exercises
  • Passive double knee raises (provided Mama can do them using an exercise band or towel to draw her knees up and not engage her abdominal muscles. If mama feels any pressure in her lower abdomen, these should be avoided!)
  • Point/flex of toes to exercise the calf muscles
  • Ankle circles

Upper body exercises should include (using a towel or exercise band):

  • Modified flies
  • Shoulder extensions with arms extended forward and to the sides
  • Upright rows
  • Bicep curls
  • Triceps extensions (if allowed to sit up)

On Bedrest Fitness I included Cat/Cow stretches. Women with incompetent cervices can actually do these stretches, but in my experience they often are unable to gauge how much pressure they are putting on their cervices. So unless a physical therapist or fitness professional is present, I don’t recommend that mamas with incompetent cervices perform these exercises.The same is true of the modified crunches.

Bed rest can have a profoundly negative (albeit temporary) effect on a mama’s overall physical condition. Depending on how long she was on bed rest prior to delivery and the restrictions she’d been given, a new mama can find herself unable to hold herself upright or to even hold her newborn. But if she engages in a few very simple but targeted exercises while on bed rest, mama will find that she will be less deconditioned after delivery and recover more quickly.

If you or someone you know has been prescribed bed rest during pregnancy, order a copy of Bedrest Fitness. Even if Mama can’t do all of the exercises, she will preserve muscle strength and tone in the areas she does exercise. Mama can also download a free set of lower body exercises, stretches and Kegels when she signs up for the Mamas on Bedrest e-mail list.

53 responses to “What Exercises Can I Do With an Incompetent Cervix?”

  1. Misty says:

    I have lost 2 children due to an incompetent cervix, at 4 and 6 months. I am now 5 weeks pregnant and will have a cerclage put in at 8 weeks. My md wants me on bed rest afterwards but hasn’t specified for how long. Thanks for your info. God Bless!

  2. dawn says:

    @misty my daughter lost my first grand baby due to this and is now six,weeks pregnant did they do anything for your second one toprevent It? I am a nervous wreck. THANk you

  3. Darline says:

    Hi Dawn and congratulations!
    Cervical Insufficiency or “Incompetent cervix” is a common occurrence in pregnancy and one of the major reasons women are placed on bed rest during pregnancy. It can be treated and the majority of women go on to have a healthy baby. If the mother has a history of loss as a result of CI, a cerclage-a surgical stitch- is often placed somewhere between 12-18 weeks gestation and often the mother is put on bed rest for a large portion (the remainder??) of her pregnancy. Some mothers have pessaries placed. These devices have been used for prolapsed organs and bladder incontinence in the past, but have been found to be effective in maintaining pregnancy in some women. However, not many practitioners use them for pregnancy preservation due to CI. Finally, some mamas are monitored and if their cervices become “too short” they are placed on bed rest.

    CI is a difficult situation as we are not usually sure why the cervix shortens and “ripens” ready for birth early nor is it usually anything that the mother has done. But be assured, it is treatable and the likelihood that your daughter will go on to have a healthy baby is quite good now that her health care provider is aware of this issue.

    BTW, I didn’t have CI, I lost my pregnancies due to luteal phase defect which translate to insufficient progesterone early on to sustain pregnancy. That too, is quite easily corrected with progesterone supplementation, which I took for the first 14 weeks of my second pregnancy (vaginally, yes, quite gooey!!) and have a healthy 6 1/2 yr old son as a result.

    The good news is that CI isn’t necessarily going to occur with this pregnancy, although the odds make it fairly likely. But again, with careful monitoring and attentive OB care, your daughter should be able to have a healthy baby! Best wishes to you all!!

  4. Simone holland says:

    This is great, I had a clerage with my daughter at 12 weeks and was on bed rest for a few months, lost alot of strength but was able to move about later in my pregnancy. All went well 🙂

  5. Cat says:

    I lost my first child at 23 weeks due to an icompetent cervix. I am now 6 weeks pregnant and will have a cerclage at 12 weeks, not sure how much bed rest the doctor will prescribe, but l am very hopeful that the cerclage will let me carry to 37+ weeks.

  6. Darline says:

    Hi Cate,
    Congratulations on your pregnancy! I know that this is a scary situation, but hang in there. A large percentage of women in our community are there due to Incompetent Cervix. Many of them go to term!!! I highly suggest that you hop on over to our Facebook page and start chatting with the mamas there. You’ll be able to get support, encouragement and tips and suggestions for making it through this difficult journey.

  7. Michelle says:


    I lost my sun 25.04.2013 due to IC and have been quite active with exercise since, do you think it will be ok to exercise during the first trimester?


  8. Darline says:

    Given your history, I would suggest MARKEDLY reducing exercise to gentle walking or perhaps swimming. I would cut out any and all strenuous activity and any activities that involve a lot of pounding or jolting. Check in with your doctor/midwife. They may want you to completely restrict activity in the first trimester or for the entire pregnancy. Not knowing your entire history and not being your health care provider it’s hard for me to say. But If it were me, I would definitely reduce my exercise level, and most assuredly check in with my health care provider before continuing. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!!

  9. Liezel says:


    I’m Liezel from Philippines. Last October 17, 2013 I lost my daughter due to pre term labor. I’m only 6 months pregnant when I gave birth. Last June I went to my OB and check for my condition. She found out that I’m 6 weeks pregnant. She checked the length of my cervix and it was 25mm. When she asked me to push it was shorten to 19mm. However, she said there is no sign of funneling, but she said I have a shorter cervix. She pointed out that this might be the reason of my pre term. Can somebody help me with my problem? Is there an exercise to help lengthen my cervix?

  10. Darline says:

    There are no exercises that I know of that will help a cervix lengthen. Most women are given a cerclage-a surgical stitch to hold hte cervix closed-and sometimes prescribed progesterone shots. I don’t know the protocol OB’s use in the Philippines, but ask your OB if she thinks a cerclage and Progesterone shots will help you. Let us know how you do!!!

  11. Liezel says:

    You’re right about the cerclage. I went to my OB last July 21, 2014 and she said mine was already 19mm. It is very short. She advised me to have a cerclage on August 21. I’ve been using progesterone for almost two weeks. Plan to have an early leave from work. I’m very worried =(
    Thanks for the reply.

  12. Darline says:

    I hope all goes well for you. Do keep us up on your progress. Best of luck!!

  13. Liezel says:

    just had my cerclage yesterday morning. And everything goes well. The only problem was that i cannot pee 9 hrs after the surgery. So they decided for a straight catheter. Thanks God i can now urinate on my own. Im still in the hospital probably tomorrow until for observation. I dont have bleeding nor cramping. Thank God!

  14. Darline says:

    So glad you are doing well. Do keep me posted. Feel free to join the discussion on the Facebook Page, http://www.facebook.com/mamasonbedrestandbeyond. Take care!

  15. Liezel says:

    I had my tvs yesterday and its a bad news. I have a strong contraction with a fear that my bag of water will explode. And my cervix is beginning to open again that a fingertip can easily inserted. I think im going crazy if theres no improvement nxt tvs. Please help. ;-( my doctor advise me to stay in the hospital.

  16. Darline says:

    I am so sorry to hear this. I agree with your OB, stay in the hospital. I know its not what you want to hear, but you can be closely monitored and if you need to have labor stopped, there are treatments readily at hand.

    Do your best not to “freak out”. That is not going to help you, your cervix or your baby. What tools do you normally use to calm down when stressed? Meditation? Exercise? talking with a friend? You need to pull whatever you need out of your arsenal and use it! If it would help to SKYPE, we can do that. Let me know.

  17. Liezel says:


    Im doing my best to keep my baby. I decided to take a LOT of water! This might help,I wish! Thank you so much for the reply. It helps…

  18. Sheri says:

    I had a cerclage done during first pregnancy and did not require bed rest. I returned to work after being at home for the week after the cerclage. My Dr advised that I could not do a lot of standing or walking and I followed her orders. At 9 months, the cerclage was removed and I had a healthy baby. My husband and i would like to have another child. What exercises should I do before pregnancy to help strengthen my cervix?

  19. Darline says:

    I honestly don’t know of any exercises you can do to strengthen your cervix. It’s not a muscle per se. Unfortunately, I don’t know of anything you can do to improve your cervix. You may want to speak with your OB about possibilities. Good luck and let us know what you learn!!

  20. Motso says:

    I have had cerlage with all my 2 babies, now I am 11 weeks and ihave been bleeding. The doctor said if the bleeding don’t stop we wouldn’t be able to do cerlage .So I am praying it stop because if not my chances of loosing the babies is 90 due to incompetent cervix.As for exercise I don’t fo until deliver because don’t want to blame myself

  21. ryan says:

    Unfortunately,my perinatologist is recommending NO legs exercises because it could engage my abs. I don’t have a degree in kinesiology, but it seems like there must be something I can do without engaging my abs. Im on my 3rd high risk pregnancy with cerclage, but this one I’m on modified bed rest. I am allowed to walk, but not much. I’m concerned that my doctor’s strict orders could make a natural labor and recovery harder on me.

  22. Darline says:

    That’s weird that you can walk, but not do leg exercises. That being the case, take short, gentle walks several times daily. This will keep you in shape while not going against your doctor’s orders. Good luck and keep us posted!!

  23. Darline says:

    Just seeing this. Hope all is well.

  24. Patricia says:

    I’m 27 wks pregnant and on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy due to incompetence cervix.

    My muscles are painful and it’s very tiring to walk or even stand in the stove to make a simple meal. My upper body muscles is also painful. Is there any exercise I can do to deal with the this muscles.

    And I have two kids that have delivered normal and would also love to deliver this one normally, what are my chances for normal delivery while placed on bed rest for 2 months/ begging of 3rd trimester

    Thanks in advance

  25. Darline says:

    Hi Patricia,
    Congratulations on your pregnancy. So sorry that you have landed on bed rest.
    I have several videos on my youtube channel that demonstrate exercises that you
    can do while on bedrest. They are very modified prenatal exercises designed to be
    gentle yet effective. Give them a look and see what may work for you. Of course
    you should check with your OB before doing any sort of movement program.

    As for delivering vaginally, there are really no reasons that you cannot except that it may
    be very strenuous for you. This is why the modified exercises are very important for you. You’ll
    need to maintain muscle strength and endurance. Talk this over with your OB, express your
    concerns and get clearance to either do the gentle exercises online, or ask for a Physical
    therapy referral.

    Hope this helps!!

  26. Leah says:

    I recently found out that my cervix shortened to 28mm at 13 weeks. Going in for an ultrasound on Friday to check if it shortens any further and have a cerclage put in if necessary.

    I have one daughter, with whom I never had any pregnancy complications, and a miscarriage at 6 weeks in January. I’m hoping I get to carry this one to term and deliver a healthy baby.

  27. Darline says:

    Hope it all works out for you and that you have a term pregnancy and a healthy baby!

  28. Denise says:

    I had an emergency cerclage 2 weeks ago and today there is funneling and bulging membranes, it didn’t work. My doctor is okay with doing another one if I want. I’m afraid of the progesterone shots she recommended due to this article about its relationship to transgender children.
    I guess I’m looking for any woman who had the cerclage and it didn’t work and stayed in bed and had results. I had accupuncture today to calm down my uterus from mild contractions. That’s working:)

  29. Darline says:

    Hi Denise,
    So sorry that you are experiencing funneling after a cerclage. You may want to consider another cerclage to keep that cervix closed and/or ask your doctor about placing a pessary; a ring around the cervix that helps keep things in place. Pessaries have been used in the past to help hold up prolapsing uteri or bladders. Recently OB’s have been using them for incompetent cervix. I don’t know the overall efficacy, but if you are looking to avoid hormones, this may be a plausible alternative for you.

    As for hormones, there is not scientific data that I know of that supports the hypothesis that hormones during pregnancy lead to transgender in children. Far too many women have taken progesterone shots during pregnancy and not had transgender children. Both men and women produce progesterone and it is necessary for maintenance of pregnancy. I would be really sad if you decided against this well tested and efficacious treatment in fear and based on an article that is more conjecture than actual scientific fact. Before you make any decisions, have a very candid talk with your OB about your situation, the treatment options available to you and your concerns. In the end it is your decision, but get as much information as you can so that you can make an informed decision that will be best for you and your baby. Good Luck and let us know how everything turns out.

  30. Carolina says:

    Hi all,
    I’m 6 weeks pregnant. Today my doctor saw two sacs, one with a strong heart beat and the other one without anything, just the liquid and something blurry inside. I have to go back next week to see if they are two strong heart beats. The thing is I lost one healthy pregnancy at 18 weeks, two years ago because of cervix incompetent. The doctor already told me about the cerclage around 10-12 weeks. He also recommends to travel to a country where there is a neonatal intensive care unit, I live in Trinidad and Tobago and this technology is not present in the country at the moment. My husband is from Portugal and we are going there after the cerclage to deliver the baby(babies). I’m concerned about the stress I have to put to my body during the traveling since I have to be in the plane around 9 hours and all the waiting hours in the airport. Could you recommend me any tip to make this as easier and safe as possible, please? What would you do?. I’m very concerned that things may go wrong again, but also with lots of hope that this time will be delivering a healthy baby(s).
    Many Thanks in advance

  31. Darline says:

    Hello Carolina,
    First and foremost, Congratulations on your pregnancy!! I’m heartened to hear that you have a strong heart beat in at least one sac. That’s a very good sign.

    Travel in and of itself is not an issue. You need to prepare for changes in air pressure from flying. Make sure you are hydrated. Dehydration leads to cramping and you don’t want uterine contractions. You also want to be able to elevate your feet. I know its an extra cost, but if you can go first class and get one of those seats that reclines into a bed, that would be best for you. While waiting in the airport, be sure to be seated and if possible, put your feet up on a travel bag or something to release any pressure on your lower abdomen/pelvis. Don’t sprint through airports. (Reasons should be obvious!) Allow yourself a lot of time, go at an easy pace. When possible, take the airport shuttles/trams so that you won’t over do with the walking. No heavy lifting. Hydrate and rest while in flight.

    I truly hope that all goes well. I wish you the best and let me know if I can be of any other assistance.

  32. Stacey Sherrill says:

    My daughter just lost her first baby. She was just at the end of her first trimester. She was also told when she was younger that she may not be able to get pregnant at all. So when she learned she was she took things easy. Was this a mistake.If she miscarried once itsn’t it very possible it will happen again? What should she be talking to her Doctpr about.

  33. Darline says:

    Hi Stacey,
    I am so sorry to hear that your daughter lost her pregnancy. That is so hard, especially since she thought that she could not get pregnant and did. But that’s the good news. She can conceive. Now to see how to get her to carry to term. I would imagine that her doctor will want to do a thorough work up; a hysterosalpingogram, perhaps a hysteroscopy and blood work. For the Hysterosalpingogram they will inject dye through the cervix and watch it via X-ray travel through the uterus and out the fallopian tubes. This give a pretty good look at the uterine cavity, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Depending on what they see or suspect, they may do a hysteroscopy. This is a laparoscopic procedure where they poke a little hole near her belly button and one on each side of the abdomen, insert little cameras via long instruments and take a look up close at her organs. This is a good way to see if she has endometriosis, fibroids, endometrial hyperplasia or something else preventing her from carrying a pregnancy. They will likely take lots of blood to measure her hormone levels. Low progesterone levels are often the culprit.

    While I know that your daughter is very sad, tell her to hang in there. I had this same scenario and lost 2 pregnancies in the first trimester. I now have a 15 1/2 yo and a 12 year old. It may take a bit or the doctors to figure out exactly what is going on, but there are lots of new and really great treatments, and it is very likely they will find a way for her to maintain a pregnancy.

    All the best to you and your family. Please tell your daughter to reach out if she has other questions.

  34. Robin says:

    Hi ladies,
    I’m trying not to freak out as this is my first pregnancy. I was diagnosed with an incompetant cervix at 20 weeks which is too late for cerclage, and wasn’t even a discussion. They put me on pregesterone and lots of rest but all the success stories I’m reading are after having cerclage and rest. I did yoga for a couple days and now nervous that I engaged my abs! I am also still working, on my feet, but taking lots of breaks. I’m 21.5 weeks now and feeling very discouraged! I feel great and have always been active and losing my mind being sedentary…oh also can’t have sex! This torture can’t be healthy for the baby ;(

  35. Darline says:

    Hi Robin,
    Congratulations on your pregnancy, and I am so sorry to hear that you have an incompetent cervix. This is one of the most common reasons for bedrest that I see in my practice. So far, you are doing all the right things. While a cerclage would be beneficial, yes, you are a tad beyond the date for placement. Have they considered a pessary? Pessaries are small devices that were initially designed to prevent organ prolapse such as bladder or uterine. Some OB’s are using them for treatment of incompetent cervix with mixed results. They are not toxic and generally do no harm otherwise, so You may want to ask your OB if you would be a candidate for a pessary.

    The only other thing I would see about is getting off your feet at work. The pull of gravity is real! The yoga will help to keep your abs and pelvic floor strong (depending on the yoga program you are doing!). It will also be good for meditation and clearing your mind.

    I know that this is not at all how you thought that your pregnancy would go, but you can do this. Take it one day at a time, one breath at a time if necessary. You have to set your mind to doing everything that you can to support this pregnancy and see the positive-a healthy baby-at the end of it all. If you lose site of that and focus on how depressing this is, the battle will be tougher. You can do this and we are here to help. Feel free to post here or visit our facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/mamasonbedrestandbeyond. We do answer posts and make comments. Good luck and do keep us posted!!!

  36. Jamie says:

    Am 28wks with twins but I was told my cervix is weak and may open up soon,tho the cervical length is 3.78cm I can’t use the cerlage,
    Can the bedrest be a solution now?

  37. Darline says:

    I cannot say given that I can’t see you and have no idea of your medical history. I would suggest that you speak with your OB about what is the best way for you to have a successful full term pregnancy. Good Luck.

  38. Busi says:

    I have incompetent cervix.Is it safe to jog?

  39. Darline says:

    Hello Busi,
    I am not your physician and this question would be better directed to them. However, in my OPINION, women with incompetent cervix should not jog. The jarring an pressure on the cervix will cause it to further dilate. Do check in with your OB and gain further information. good luck!!

  40. Sandrina says:

    Hi, my name is sandrina. I have had 2 lossalready. Cerclauge was a fail in my second pregnancy. Now I’m 13 weeks pregnant and is having my cerclauge placed any day now. Walking and squatting is a daily in my work of place. Is it bad to squat? What should I worry about more this 3rd time. Can you help me in every way possiible to take care of myself and the cervix.p

  41. Darline says:

    The cerclage is the best defense against cervical insufficiency. However, your active job is going to pose a challenge. Is there any way that you can get a desk job or some sort of modified activity? Given your situation, I am thinking that your OB will likely prescribe 17 OH progesterone at about 16 weeks, but again, if you can get your employer to put you on less active duty, that is going to be the best help. perhaps your OB would write a letter to this effect.

  42. Ashley Phillips says:

    Hi my name is Ashley, my fiancé and I lost our first child at 19 weeks due to IC and my mom miscarried twice at 20 and 21 weeks before she had me due to IC also. I am en equestrian and would like to maintain the strength in my lower body throughout my pregnancy this time. We are pregnant with our second child and I will have the cerclage put in this coming Friday (July 12,2019) any recommendations on safe exercises for before and after the procedure?

  43. Darline says:

    Hi Ashley,
    Congratulations on your pregnancy!! While I can appreciate you wanting to maintain your lower body strength, I hope that you are not planning to continue riding! I would check in with your OB and see if it is okay for your to walk, swim, stationary cycle. You have to be careful because you don’t want to do exercises that will increase your internal pressure (anything that causes you to bear down like weight lifting, squats). Yoga is also very good. Just be sure that you clear anything that you are planning on doing with your OB. I wish you all the best with your pregnancy!!

  44. Manasi says:

    Hello Doc,
    I had anomaly scan on week 17 (25th June) and my cervix length was 3cm and another scan yesterday and it was found to be 2.3cm. I have been prescribed Duvadilan retard for 15 days after which I have to go for another checkup.
    I have 2 questions:
    – is it ok for me to go for a walk as I have gestational diabetes also n was earlier recommended walk
    – what is the probability that I ll have to go for Cervical clerage?
    This is my 1st pregnancy through ivf

  45. Darline says:

    Hello Manasi,
    Congratulations on your pregnancy! The questions that you are asking are best addressed by your obstetrician. Here at Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond, we offer non medical support, information and resources. Only your doctor can say how safe it is for your to exercise at this point and whether or not you will need to have a cerclage. Make sure you pose these very important questions at your next prenatal visit.

    good luck with your pregnancy and let us know when your bundle of joy arrives!

  46. Masooma says:

    Hello doctor .I am 20 week pregnant after cerclage doctor told me for a walk .can I go

  47. Darline says:

    First, I am not a physician and cannot give medical advice on this website. If you doctor said that it is safe for you to walk, then you can go. Your doctor will be the one to determine your exercise limits. Good luck!!

  48. :) says:

    I’m an emergency department registered nurse and first time pregnant mama! My work requires me to walk A LOT with few, if any, breaks. I was pulled from work (luckily) at 17 weeks for other pregnancy complications, however at 20 weeks my cervix went from 3.0 to 2.5 with beaking and shortening, thankfully my cervix was closed from the outside and not dilating. At 21 weeks my cervix went from 2.5 to 1.7 with beaking and I began having contractions. I should add that I’m pregnant with twins so a cerclage is not recommended as it can pose more harm and is not proven beneficial in a twin pregnancy. I was started on vaginal progesterone, which is a hormone the body naturally produces while pregnant that may be deficient. It is that is the most recommended plan on care along with strict bedrest for twin or multiples with CI. I was also prescribed several other medications to relax the cervix and stop contractions, which is working great. I’m currently 24 and a half weeks and my cervix is 2.3! I was also told I have what’s called a “retractable cervix” which is when the cervix May fluctuate a bit in length and beaking measurements, but so far so good. So for the mamas having multiples where this is not an option, there is still hope 🖤

  49. Darline says:

    Wow, that’s a lot. However, that is the best course of action. I really hope that everything progresses smoothly from here. You have a long road ahead, but i know that you can do this. Keep us posted.

  50. Miranda says:

    Hello, I am currently 14 weeks and was just told by a midwife that my 12 week U/S showed I had a cervix length of only 2.7cm. But that we would just make sure it was checked at my 20week scan. I feel like that is way too long and late to wait and see if it has shortened or thickened. Would that then not be too late for a stitch?
    I seem to be more concerned about it than she is.
    My doctor didn’t say anything about it when He told me the results. And the obstetrician who did my us also didn’t mention it.

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