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ANATOMY

I’m feeling myself. Literally.

10 July 2018

In my 25 years of having a vagina I have only ever been to the gynaecologist twice. And from what I have gathered from close girlfriends during whispered chats at a recent party that’s 2 more times than many of the women my age around me.

What sparked the interest of my female counterparts was the part where I bashfully asked,

“Anyone ever felt their cervix?”

I wasn’t surprised by the responses I got – up until a few weeks ago neither had I, and why would I even need to?

So there I am sitting in a white leather chair in my gynaecologist’s clinic room. It’s directly next to his desk and I notice my palms are nervously sweaty. I am very lucky to have a gyno that is kind and does make me feel very safe. He and I had been acquainted before on a professional level and I’d worked alongside him caring for patients. I’d seen his bedside manner, and I’d seen him traipsing the hallways of the hospital late at night long after he was due home just so he could check in with a patient. Being a Registered Nurse working in Women’s Health, you could say I have “the pick of the lot” in terms of doctors that may or may not have to insert metal and or plastic devices up my vagina and scrape my cervix. Perks of the trade, eh?

We chat a little about life, how my periods are going, the dysmenorrhea, work-life balance, and he also remembers that I’ve been with my boyfriend for “about 18 months now hey?”. I’m chuffed.

After a quick look over my blood results and a physical check up our annual rendezvous is coming to an end. As he rushes back behind the curtain I hear him sit down on his roller chair and I know it’s safe to stand. Just as I’m pulling my pants up wondering why I wore such tight jeans to a gyno appointment I hear him lean back in his chair, pausing his rambling about the new cervical screen tests to say,

“Hey, so have you felt your cervix?”

This wasn’t a question as much as it was an assumed statement. Uhhhhh duuuhhh I’m a Women’s Health Nurse – I’m like – SO in touch with my body.

“Um, no. I.. actually.. never thought about it before.”

Call it pride, call it curiosity, but as soon as I get home I find myself standing in the bathroom, one foot on the bathtub bent over with one finger ready to dive in thinking to myself “how far until I’ll hit it”.

Then I found it – it’s soft and hard at the same time. A round donut shape, he had described it feeling “like the end of your nose” and it did.

So now you’re thinking “Cool girl, way to feel your cervix, and thanks for the TMI explanation!”

Let me tell you a few benefits of being ‘in touch’ with your cervix. Some women use feeling their cervix as a tool to figure out when they are fertile in the month so they can make da babies (or completely avoid it). Feeling your cervix is one part of many ways to use ‘Natural Family Planning’ as a contraception. But if that’s not your thing, then it’s okay to feel your cervix as an empowering part of knowing and understanding your female body.

Where is the cervix?

As described before, it is a donut shaped hole which connects your vagina to your uterus. Now, I introduce you to a small opening within the cervix called the ‘Os’. The os opens and closes to allow passage from your vagina to your uterus, or vice versa (hint: childbirth).

Photo © MedIndia

What does it do?

Your cervix will change how it feels and it’s position depending on where you are at in your cycle.

After ovulation: Your cervix will sit low and it may feel hard as mine did, closing the passage to the uterus, meaning there’s no chance of sperm entering the uterus.

Leading up to and during ovulation: Your cervix will feel soft, often described like two lips, and perhaps indistinguishable as it sits high and close to the uterus. In this case, your cervix has opened. Yep you guessed it, you’re ovulating and the gates are open for baby making.

During this time you may also notice that it is wet or moist. Ever noticed that the discharge on your panties changes during your cycle? This discharge is created by the cervix, and that discharge allows or encourages sperm to access your uterus.

A simple guide to cervical discharge goes like this:

At the beginning of your cycle, mucus is thick and often cloudy, you might not have a lot of it. This mucus actually helps to block sperm from travelling.

When you’re ovulating, your oestrogen rises which changes the mucus to thin, clear and stretchy (like egg whites) and you might have an increased production of it! This discharge helps sperm swim upstream to the cervix and uterus.

Photo by Ashlyn Fenton Legend Of The Uterus

So how can I feel my cervix?

  1. Give your hands a good wash so as to not introduce any nasties to your good place
  2. Position yourself. Some women find it most comfortable to check their cervix after a warm bath or shower. You can do it with one leg up, or maybe lying down with your legs bent up. You can try a few different positions, really it’s what you’re most comfortable with
  3. Place one finger into your vagina, as if you were inserting a tampon. You can expect most of your finger to pass through the vagina, you should find your cervix at the top of the canal – you’ll know it when your finger cannot got any further, and you feel a small bulbous circle. If you’ve never had a baby vaginally before the circle will have a dimple in the middle, if you have, it’ll feel more like a slit. This dimple in the middle is the os

Why should I pay attention to my cervix?

Bottom line is your cervix is important, and clever. Feeling your cervix can be an empowering way to understand the functions of your badass female body better and prevent or promote pregnancy. Also really importantly, I believe that a better understanding of our lovely friend the cervix will encourage us girls to look after it properly.

You can do this by:

Using barrier contraceptions (like condoms) during sex in order to protect our lady bits from sexually transmitted infections. Yes ladies, even those of you who are taking oral contraceptives or have IUD’s.

Getting your cervix screened regularly. Pap tests may not be the most comfortable appointment of your life, but they are absolutely necessary in screening for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases and infections such as HPV (Human PapillomaVirus).
Ask your doctor about getting a HPV vaccine.

I hope this has been helpful, and good luck finding your cervix lady!

Talking V’s, at your Cervix!