The cervix, which is the spongy, button-like tissue with a central area (os) that can open and is the entrance of the uterus from the vagina, can undergo certain changes during different times of the menstrual cycle.
Determining the time of the menstrual cycle using the location and texture of the cervix is useful in women who are trying to promote or avoid conception. This method, together with detecting preovular cervical mucus, has been clinically studied and was found to be a reliable way of determining whether one is ovulating or not.
The cervical changes
The following changes in the cervix may help one determine where they are in their cycle:
- Menstruation - besides the tell-tale sign of vaginal bleeding, the cervix during this time of the menstrual cycle feels firm, hangs low and the os is open to allow blood to escape from the uterus. The os then closes once all the blood has shed from the uterus. The cervix may also be slightly angled to one side and not central.
- Nearing ovulation - the cervix feels higher up in the vagina because as the ovaries produce estrogen, this causes the ligaments of the uterus to tighten resulting in the uterus being pulled up further into the pelvis and thus the cervix follows suit. It may also be more difficult to feel the cervix at this time since it moves higher up into the body. At this time, the cervix feels softer, like lips that are pursed, and feels more centrally aligned with the os being only slightly open.
- After ovulation - estrogen levels drop and therefore so does the location of the cervix. Therefore, the structure feels low down in the vagina, firm, and the os is closed.
These changes may not occur the same way in every woman as there are those individuals with uteruses that may be positioned in ways that make the cervix feel as if it lies in another particular direction.
How to feel the cervix
The following is a guideline to help women feel their own cervix to judge where they are in their menstrual cycle:
- Hands must be washed with soap and warm water.
- Squat or stand with one foot raised on a step-like structure such as a step-stool.
- The longest finger must be used and inserted into the vagina until the cervix is felt. It will feel like a small, spongy cylinder towards the back of the soft vaginal walls.
- Feeling around the cervix, one should be able to find a small indentation in the middle of the structure and this is the os.
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