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Pregnancy After a LEEP

By Rebekah Kuschmider |

I was diagnosed with HPV in 2007. The diagnosis came after a pre-conception check-up I’d had prior to commencing a full-on attempt to have a baby. Despite knowing how common HPV is and that, on its own, it is often benign, I was shaken. The diagnosis led to my first colposcopy (an exam that reminded me of the way my eye doctor gets a look at the back of my eye, only in my vagina) to ensure that there were no problems brewing. There were not, and I was sent on my way to conceive, deliver, and raise my beautiful son, with annual breaks for paps, of course. I knew that HPV is linked to cervical cancer and the incidence of HPV meant I needed to be vigilant about getting Pap tests to make sure no cancerous changes developed.

In 2009, my Pap revealed abnormal cells. Another colposcopy and a biopsy determined that they were high-grade precancerous abnormalities and should be removed before they had time to develop into cervical cancer. The beauty of screenings for HPV and Pap tests is that potential problems can be detected and resolved before cancer occurs. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t terrified and worried. My doctor scheduled a LEEP, a procedure that removes a layer of cells from the cervix. The procedure went well, my worry abated, and I’ve had clean Paps ever since.

But now, I’m pregnant sans a layer of cervical cells. The LEEP is a common and safe procedure that saves lives, and nothing would have convinced me to forgo it. Cervical cancer kills almost 4,000 American women per year, and I was not willing to risk that. The benefits outweighed the risks for me — the risk being a higher likelihood of incompetent cervix in any future pregnancy.

I go to a large OB/GYN practice and will see a lot of doctors before the end of this pregnancy. The doctor who performed my LEEP has actually left the practice, so I don’t have her to help wave red flags about my cervix to her colleagues. That’s why I’ve been really adamant about reminding them of my history with cervical surgery. I may have even told one very nice doctor that this was the thing I would obsess about during this pregnancy because I’m neurotic. He was kind and told me that the risk of problems was very low, but they have protocols for keeping an eye on such things.

That protocol? It means internal exams every two weeks starting at 16 weeks gestation. Oh, and an extra sonogram specifically to measure my cervix for a baseline reading on how it’s holding up. (And they really only look at the cervix. The tech gave me a mere three-second look at the baby during that sono. Harumph.) In the event that my cervix starts to open prematurely, I could need a cerclage, which is doctor speak for “sewing your junk closed.” Seriously, it’s a stitch in the cervix to keep it closed. There’s also the possibility of bed rest or, heaven forbid, hospitalization in the event of pre-term labor.

I don’t love having my cervix poked by people I’m not married to, and I’m not totally sure how my insurance company is going to react to double the usual number of OB appointments for a healthy pregnancy. But a quick visit in the stirrups every 14 days to monitor for problems is a hell of a lot better than pre-term labor. And my insurance company can suck it. Office visits are cheaper than the NICU.

True to form, I’m obsessing about my cervix. You won’t find me bouncing on my son’s trampoline or lifting his 40-pound bulk from the ground, even if he’s having a raging tantrum in public and I want to physically haul him out. But, like everyone at my OB’s office keeps telling me, it will probably be fine. Fingers crossed that they’re right.

Have you been pregnant after a LEEP? Share your experience!

Read more from Rebekah at Mom-in-a-Million, The DC MomsThe Broad Side
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About Rebekah Kuschmider

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Rebekah Kuschmider

Rebekah Kuschmider is a writer and mother with an over-developed sense of irreverence, who has socialist tendencies and a blog. She lives with her husband and two kids outside of Washington, DC. You can read her work regularly at Stay At Home Pundit and The Broad Side. Her work has also been seen at Salon, Redbook, and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Rebekah Kuschmider's latest posts →

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21 thoughts on “Pregnancy After a LEEP

  1. Jennifer says:

    I had a LEEP done in 2008 and was pregnant in 2009. I only had my cervix checked twice via ultrasound. I had the same doctor for my pregnancy who preformed my LEEP. I went on to have a very normal pregnancy. No issues at all and I delievered a week past my EDD. I also had a regular vaginal delievery. I am now pregnant with my second and until I read this article I had forgot all about the LEEP I had done.

  2. Sarah says:

    Not a LEEP lady, but I have incompetent cervix – with no known reason, bah and hurumph, if we at least knew WHY I’d feel better in some way, but I digress.

    It is hard – you do end up watching yourself everytime with what you do – no carrying our 18 month old, here, and it suuuucks. I may actually recommend asking if you can get a baseline cervical measurement before 16 weeks – I know by 16 weeks with this pregnancy (#2! Yay!) we were down to under 1 cm. You are 110% right that the trade-off to the CONSTANT VIGILANCE on this one is carrying to term and the bill for more doctor visits now is a lot less than a NICU bill later.

    And hi, you’re in DC. We’re down in F’burg! Small world.

  3. SassyB says:

    I had a successful pregnancy post a LEEP with my second child. My doctor wasn’t as concerned as yours about early labor, cerclage, but that could be that I was 3 years post procedure. I never had any issues until it came time for delivery. I was 2 weeks overdue (UGH!) and they induced me but I made no progress. Lucky for me, my doc does outreach and was going to be gone the next day. So what did they do? Sent me home. Come back tomorrow. Yeah. So induction day two. Lots of contractions, no dilation past 2cm. Come to find out, there was scarring on my cervix that kept it from dilating. A colleague of my doc’s came in and did an exam (nice long, slender fingers) and POP! There was an actual audible pop heard by all. The scar tissue broke and I was at 8cm in no time. Healthy 9.5 lb baby boy.

    So hears to hoping and praying that all goes well with your pregnancy and you don’t have any of the preterm stuff. And yes, insurance company can suck it! Best of luck!

  4. rebekahkuschmider says:

    Jennifer, how interesting the different protocols different practices recommend! One of the doctors at my OB office said that what they do is considered a little hyper-vigilant. But, because I’m neurotic, I’m grateful for it because wondering all the time would drive me up the wall.

    Sarah, good luck to you and how is the weather in Fburg? Getting snow today?

  5. Shannon says:

    Almost same story for me, got hpv, got knocked up, delivered perfect baby, then leep 6 months later. This was in 2008. I had my second daughter in 2010 also no problems, she was 2weeks early was all. My OB initially told me that even though i had leep done previoysly that i looked good and not to worry. She said i had plenty of cervix left! Oh doc i bet you say that to all the girls…

  6. bunnytwenty says:

    “(an exam that reminded me of the way my eye doctor gets a look at the back of my eye, only in my vagina)”

    ha! yeah, that’s a perfect description of a colpo. I likened mine to having a stepladder ladder inserted in my business and then opened. In any case, have they told you how your cervix looks scar-wise? I haven’t been pregnant, but I’ve been told that my cervix healed up beautifully after my LEEP and I don’t have anything to worry about, so I’m hoping yours is the same. It does sound like you’re doing fine and getting great care!

  7. Kristi says:

    I had a LEEP procedure in early 1997 to remove abnormal cells after a preconception Pap smear and exam (which is why I highly recommend those). I went to a different doctor by the time I got pregnant in early 1998 but she was aware of my history. No mention was made at the time of the possibilty of an incompetent cervix but I did not have any problems with that or a subsequent pregnancy. Sounds to me they are just applying an abundance of caution, which should make you feel much better about it.

  8. Kitten says:

    Your insurance prob won’t mind twice the visits for a healthy pregnancy. I’ve had about three times the normal visits during this COMPLETELY healthy pregnancy due to all the problems I had last one and the only thing my insurance even waffled about was switching blood thinners.

  9. Sherri says:

    I had a LEEP in 2002 I believe and had a perfectly healthy pregnancy in 2011. Good luck to you! I am sure everything will be just fine. Like you I had lots of extra ultrasounds which meant lots of extra looks at my sweet boy! :)

  10. snakecharmer says:

    I had a LEEP performed in 2008 and safely delivered my daughter in 2009 (41 + weeks!). I had moved between the two so my OB requested detailed information from my gyno who performed the LEEP (how much was taken, record of subsequent paps). I also had a trans-vaginal ultrasound (don’t those things suck?) to measure the depth of my cervix. Everything worked out very well and I even dilated fully during labour. I’m now 37 weeks along with my second child post-LEEP. Good luck with everything, I’m sure it will all work out!

  11. eva says:

    I had a LEEP in 2009 and am in my 28th week. I must say that I feel a little silly now – I just haven’t worried about this. Reading your post I was wondering if I’ve been terrible remiss or something, but my ob-gyn and my midwives have all treated it at something to be aware of, but certainly not a major concern. I think if you look at the statistical correlation between LEEP and incompetent cervix, the numbers are in our favors. Every pregnancy is different and I think every woman worries about different things, but if it in ANY way makes you feel better, I can tell you that this has been as close to a non-issue in my pregnancy as possibly could be – so while it’s good that your doctors are keeping an eye out for it, perhaps it’s nice to know that other women are having the same condition and do not find cause to worry?

  12. Ashley says:

    I had two LEEP procedures in the years prior to getting pregnant in 2009. I’m not going to lie, my pregnancy was a little scary at times. I bled on and off through the whole first trimester and had an episode of bleeding in the 2nd trimester that ended with me in the ER thinking I was going to miscarry. That is when I was diagnosed with a short cervix, and was seen by a perinatologist for the remainder of my pregnancy for ultasounds every two weeks to check the length of my cervix. I was put on bed rest twice as my pregnancy progressed, for a week each time when my cervix measured dangerously short. However, my doctor never elected to do a cerclage either, so I know my situation could have been worse. My son was born a day after his due date, happy and healthy. I am now pregnant with my 2nd (6.5 weeks) and will ensure we are more proactive in monitoring my cervix this time around! At least I know what I can probably expect.

  13. Brittany says:

    Had a LEEP in 2006 got prego in oct 2009, my water broke 3 weeks early (july 2010) and I never went into labor i had too much scar tissue they tried to scrape the scar tissue off and took 36 hours to try and make me thin and contract but it never happened. Ended up delivering him 36 hrs later via C-section. All problems were from LEEP next pregnancy will be planned C section:) I will not go thru the mental exhaustion of trying to deliver vaginally and cant.

  14. Courtney says:

    I hope your pregnancy goes well and all is uneventful. On the other end of the spectrum, I wanted to bring your attention to this article that discusses scar tissue. http://www.birthresourcenetwork.org/blog/98-cervical-scar-tissue-a-big-issue-that-no-one-is-talking-about

    Having a procedure of your cervix can also lead to scar tissue that can prevent you from fully dialating. It’s an easy fix if your care provider knows what to do! Hopefully you can be armed with information that can help you have the best birth possible for you and your baby! Good luck!

  15. Danielle says:

    I had a LEEP as well but it was in 2003. With my first pregnancy I went through all the ultrasounds and exams. I never dilated past 4 cm and had a c-section.
    My second son I tried to VBAC and only got to 4cm then as well. After 26 hours I had a second cesarean.
    My third was a scheduled cesarean but my water broke early with once again no progress. :(

  16. rachel says:

    I had a LEEP in spring of 2010 and became pregnant in the summer of 2011. I’m just now starting my third trimester. My doctor said that I really have nothing to worry about, at least in my case. She my cervix is plenty thick. She told me that they used to have more problems with cervical failure with the cervical cone procedure, rather than the LEEP. I’m wondering if there’s a difference as far as whether it’s your first pregnancy or second pregnancy. In my case, it’s my first, but I’m wondering if it’s a second if the cervix is not as thick in subsequent pregnancies (just a theory).

  17. Mother Mary says:

    Great post! I have had the same worries with this pregnancy. I had a LEEP in 2004. This is my second pregnancy, first after LEEP. Both midwives I’ve seen so far haven’t seemed concerned about potential complications (I’m 18 weeks). I think I will ask about assessing scar tissue and perhaps cervical length at my next appointment though. You bring up good things for me to think about!

    http://9yearslater.wordpress.com

  18. Dani says:

    I had one LEEP and two cone biopsies in a two year span. Years later I had my daughter. The pregnancy was scary. Due to my surgeries I had a very short cervix and had a sonogram every week. When I hit 32 weeks my cervix got below 2.5 and I was put on bed rest for the duration. I delivered at 38 weeks via c-section because my daughter was breach for the entire pregnancy (heart shaped uterus). Due to the problems and my cervix has basically disappeared from the pregnancy I don’t think we will be having another child.

  19. Courtney says:

    I had two LEEPs and a colposcopy 8-10 years ago. I either wasn’t informed or don’t remember being informed about risks in pregnancy. I was 18 then. Kids weren’t on my radar. But now, my husband and I will be starting a family soon. Thank you for this post. I know now I need to make sure my doctors know to be mindful of this history.

  20. Courtney says:

    I had a LEEP in…02? 03? Somewhere in that time frame. I have had two pregnancies since (09 and 11) and had no issues whatsoever. With my first pregnancy I told my drs and the y “monitored” it but I had no extra check-ups, no extra examinations. It was basically a non-issue. With my second I never even discussed it with the dr because I uh, kinda forgot about it. I delivered two large children naturally (8lbs 2 oz and 9lbs 12 oz) and had zero LEEP-relaated issues. I hope you have the same experience!!
    Well, I mean with the LEEP, not the giant babies.

  21. Erin says:

    I had a LEEP in 04, I got pregnant 2 months later. Whether or not it was related to the LEEP or not I had a LOT of problems with my pregnancy. A big one was mysteriously disappearing amneotic fluid… My daughter was born happy and healthy(though measuring 2 weeks behind) at 35 weeks. I’m currently 7 weeks pregnant with #2 and my doctor’s have decided not to take any risks, I got in next week for a cervical ultrasound to see if I have any incomptency and at 14 weeks I start the P17 shots, he wants me to try to VBAC…. I really hope I don’t have the scarring issue!

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