OK, I admit it. I was pretty clueless about my cervix before I started researching all this. I mean, it’s essentially a bit of a design fault, how are you meant to know much about what you can’t see? Typically, now I’ve read up on this and talked to a few experts, I can’t stop myself sharing the odd fascinating fact over lunch with a girlfriend… in fact you could say I am now horribly guilty of over-sharing. “T.M.I.” howled my friend Alex over brunch as I excitedly waved my hands around saying, “So, imagine your cervix is like a doughnut, no, a, bagel without a hole…”
But I’m allowed to over-share here. And TOO MUCH INFO is precisely what this is all about… so pretend you’re at brunch with me, grab a latte, and no howling…
1. Cervixes don’t all look the same. Some are long, some are short, some big, some small. We’re all different and our insides are just as different as our outsides. So if your nurse or doctor thinks that your cervix looks unusual and refers you to a specialist, it’s most likely because hey, sometimes cervixes DO look a bit different and they’re just sending you to someone who’s an expert in this area. Don’t worry!
2. So what’s a cervix like? Imagine a kind of fleshy doughnut with a dimple rather than hole in the middle. That’s your cervix. The dimple is called an os and it’s the small hole through which menstrual blood flows, and, as it’s the opening of your cervix, it can dilate to allow for the birth of your baby. Going in the other direction, unless you use condoms or a cap, it’s the opening where sperm passes through when you have sex.
3. You can feel your cervix. If you put a finger inside yourself, you’ll feel something firm, smooth and moist; a bit like the inside of your cheek that you can feel with your tongue.
4. OK, so turns out that a tilted cervix, or a ‘shy’ cervix are basically the same thing. Your uterus sits within your pelvis and the neck of the womb pokes down into the vagina, sometimes a cervix faces one way, sometimes the other — both are perfectly normal. The correct term is a ‘retroverted’ cervix. The reason that it’s ‘shy’ is because it’s a little more tricky to see – which is why a longer speculum is needed for the smear test.
5. Through your menstrual cycle, your cervix changes. It softens, hardens, moves up and down and also experiences changes in levels of vaginal fluids. There is probably no better or more comprehensive record of the changes in a cervix than at the Beautiful Cervix Project, an amazing project that a 25-year old blogged, with photos of her own cervix, taken every day throughout a typical menstrual cycle. Graphic, frank and brilliant!