Cervix Throughout the Cycle
If you’re already charting your menstrual cycle, checking the position and texture of your cervix each day can help you confirm where you are in your cycle. If you’re not already charting, have a feel anyway – its a great skill to have in your empowered woman toolbox!
Here’s how to feel your cervix:
- Wash your hands
- Squat or stand with one foot raised on a stool.
- Insert your longest finger into your vagina until you feel your cervix. It will feel like a protruding nub/cylinder toward the back of the soft walls of your vagina. If your finger is long enough, you should be able to circle your finger all the way around the cervix and feel a little dent in the middle of it (called the os, the opening to the uterus).
- Note the following:
- How deep in your vagina is your cervix resting? (How much of your finger is inside of you?)
- Does your cervix feel soft, like pursed lips, or more firm, like the tip of your nose?
- Is your cervix angled to one side or aligned more centrally?
- Does your os feel slightly open and squishy or squeezed shut?
While menstruating, the cervix may feel firm and low and the os open as it releases blood. It may be angled to one side slightly. Once all the blood has been shed, the os again feels closed.
As ovulation nears, the rising levels of estrogen cause the ligaments that attach the uterus to the pelvis to tighten and pull the uterus up further into the body. Hence, the cervix gradually draws deeper in the vagina and if often harder to reach near ovulation. The cervix may feel softer (like pursed lips) be more centrally aligned, and the os slightly open.
After ovulation, estrogen levels drop and the cervix usually resumes feeling low, firm, and closed until she gets her period a few weeks later. It is not uncommon for the cervix to be tilted to one side.
Not all women follow this pattern exactly so don’t worry if you don’t. For example, women with retroverted (tipped) uteruses may find thier cervix easier to reach near ovulation and women who have given birth vaginally usually have softer cervices throughout the cycle. Its empowering just to know what is normal for you. You may notice your cervical changes vary from cycle to cycle or that you have a consistent pattern that aligns with your other symptoms of fertility (cervical fluid and basal body temperature).
The key is to check every day so you can feel the relative differences from day to day; cervical changes can be very subtle. Check your cervix in the same position and at the same time each day (i.e. in a squat before showering in the morning), so you’re comparing apples to apples – or cervices to cervices, as the case may be.
Check back soon for an overview of female reproductive anatomy, hormones, typical changes throughout menstrual cycle, and how it all relates to Fertility Awareness charting…
For more in depth information about charting your cycle and variations of normal, please browse the Resource page for excellent books and other websites on the topic.
What Are Fertility Awarness Methods?
Men produce about 1000 sperm per second and are thus considered fertile everyday. A man’s ejaculate contains between 50-500 million sperm. Conception can only occur when one of these live sperm meets a woman’s live egg.
Women ovulate (release an egg) once per menstrual cycle and the egg lives a maximum of 24 hours. For a few days prior to ovulation, tiny glands in the cervix called cervical crypts produce fertile cervical fluid (a wet, often slippery, raw eggwhite consistency). This fertile cervical fluid can help sperm survive for up to five days in the vagina as they patiently wait for the egg to be released. So, even though her egg itself only lives for about a day or less, women are considered to have a ‘fertile window’ when they are producing fertile cervical fluid – meaning that intercourse/insemination in that window of time could lead to conception if the sperm stay alive (for a few hours or even days) in the fertile fluid and then make their way into the Fallopian tube to fertilize the egg after ovulation.
There are a variety of methodologies for calculating a woman’s natural fertility windows, both religious and secular – collectively they are called Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM) or Natural Family Planning (NFP). FAM is based on the scientific facts that hormonal fluxes during a woman’s menstrual cycle cause observable changes in the quality of her cervical fluid and a rise in her basal body temperature (BBT, or temperature upon waking) after ovulation.
In practice, FAM is relatively simple: throughout the day, a woman notices and records the sensation and quality of her cervical fluid as it appears at her vulva or on her toilet paper after wiping. On this chart, she also records her basal body temperature, taken orally, vaginally or under her armpit when she first wakes up in the morning. Optionally, some women also check the firmness and depth of their cervix within their vagina to confirm the other two fertility signs on their charts.
FAM takes about 4-8 hours to learn, either through reading a book, taking a workshop or during one-on-one lessons with a teacher/mentor. Once initial guidelines are understood, FAM takes a commitment of about 2 minutes a day to maintain and interpret data on her chart.
FAM can become an empowering path of enhancing a woman’s overall body literacy, increasing communication with her partner, and gauging her overall health. FAM can be used as a natural form of birth control, to help achieve pregnancy, and to find underlying health issues that may be affecting the regularity of her cycles or her fertility overall.