When postpartum cervical biopsy specimens were compared with biopsy specimens from nonpregnant women, they revealed a 12-fold decrease in mechanical strength, a 50% reduction in the concentrations of collagen and sulfated glycosaminoglycans, a 35% reduction in hyaluronic acid, an increase in collagen extractability, and a fivefold increase in collagenolytic activity. Primiparas with relatively high concentrations of collagen and hyaluronic acid had relatively long cervical dilatation times during established labor, suggesting a physiologic importance to these variables. This correlation was not found in multiparas, even though the mean values of the biochemical parameters tested were similar to those in primiparas. Second-trimester biopsy specimens taken from patients with cervical incompetence contained normal collagen concentrations, but relatively high collagen extractabilities and collagenolytic activities, exceeding normal postpartum values. A biopsy specimen that was tested biomechanically had a very low strength and very high extensibility. Most likely, these data reflect a high turnover of collagen in incompetent services, resulting in a high proportion of newly synthesized collagen with low biomechanical strength.