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Cervix - common questions and answers

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What is a cervix?

The cervix sits above your vagina and below your womb. The cervix forms the neck of your womb and connects the two together. Your cervix is also known as your uterus, it is in fact a lower part of your uterus. During your period the cervix opens a little to help blood pass through, this also happens during labour where the cervix dilates to let the baby move from the womb to the vagina.

How do you know the position of your cervix?

Finding the position of your cervix can take a bit of practice, but there is no reason why you shouldn’t get to know your own body and find out how your cervix changes during your menstrual cycle. This can help you if you’re trying to get pregnant as you’ll be able to tell when you’re ovulating, depending on the position and feel of your cervix. Firstly make sure that you have thoroughly washed your hands as to prevent any infections, also it’s a good idea to keep your nails short to avoid irritating your cervix.

Whether you squat, lie on your back or rest one leg up on the bath, find a comfortable stance that will allow you to place your fingers into your vagina. Insert one or two of your fingers into your vagina and slowly slide them inside as far as you can reach in an upward motion. You should aim at the small of your back, very similar to when you insert a tampon.

If you’re not close to ovulation the entrance to your cervix will be low and easy to reach. It will feel a lot harder, some say like the texture of the tip of your nose. Your cervix resembles a doughnut – a round shape with a hole in the middle. Depending on your cycle this hole will widen, if you’re ovulating your cervix will be more open, softer and wetter. It can feel more like the texture of your lips, and it will also be higher and perhaps harder to reach.

What does your cervix feel like when you’re ovulating?

During ovulation the feel and position for your cervix will change in order to make fertilising an egg easier. As you approach ovulation the cervix will change position and rise to the top of the vagina, it will also feel a lot softer compared to other times during your menstrual cycle.

When you’re ovulating your uterus will feel even softer and more open, as this allows sperm to easily pass through. You might not be able to distinguish your cervix as it has become so soft that it blends into the walls of your vagina, or it can move so high that you cannot reach it. The higher, softer and more open your cervix is the more fertile you are.

What does it mean when you have a tilted cervix?

The cervix is the bottom opening of the uterus, so if you have a tilted cervix then you have a tilted uterus – they mean the same thing. Instead of the cervix/uterus sitting up straight and leaning forward towards your belly, it faces the other way tilting towards your back over your bowel rather than over your bladder. Many women who have been told that they have a tilted uterus worry that this will interfere with their ability to conceive, however it is a normal variation and should not get it the way of you getting pregnant.

Why is my cervix inflamed?

During a routine cervical screening test your nurse may notice that your cervix looks inflamed or irritated, or you might be experiencing unusual discharge, pain or bleeding and have spoken to your doctor. These symptoms and inflammation could be because of cervicitis. Although cervicitis doesn’t normally show symptoms, if it does these are similar to vaginitis, the infection’s symptoms include discharge, itching and pain during sexual intercourse.

You may also notice some bleeding if this occurs when you are not expecting your period it is referred to as irregular bleeding and should be discussed with your GP. Cervicitis is often caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including chlamydia which can be avoided by using condoms during sexual activity and contact. The most common form of treatment for this infection is antibiotics, however your doctor will offer you a treatment tailored to your individual needs and circumstance.

What is a cervical screening test?

Known more commonly as a smear test, a cervical screening detects abnormal cells in your cervix (the entrance to your womb from your vagina). It’s important that you go to all your routine cervical screenings as detecting changes in the cells in your cervix can help to prevent cervical cancer.

What are the early signs of cervical cancer?

For most women the earliest sign is vaginal bleeding, which occurs after sex. However any bleeding from your vagina that happens, other than your monthly period, is considered irregular. If you have noticed any irregular bleeding, you should talk to your GP.

How will I know if I'm pregnant?

One of the first and most reliable signs that you could be pregnant is a missed period. If you have a regular menstrual cycle this is easier to spot, however to be sure you can complete a pregnancy test at home or talk to your GP.