Your cervix changes position many times throughout your menstrual cycle.
For example, it may rise alongside ovulation to prepare for conception or lower to allow menstrual tissue to pass through the vagina.
Each change in position is tied to a particular phase in your menstrual cycle or other hormonal change, such as pregnancy.
Checking the position and texture of your cervix — as well as any cervical mucus — can help you gauge where you are in your cycle.
You may find this information especially useful if you’re tracking your ovulation or trying to conceive.
Your cervix is pretty deep inside your body. It acts as a canal connecting the lower part of your uterus to your vagina.
Doctors typically insert special instruments, such as a speculum, into your vagina to access the cervix.
Although you can safely use your fingers to try this at home, it isn’t always easy to feel or locate your cervix.
There are a number of reasons why you may not be able to, and none of them are cause for concern. For example:
- you may have a long vaginal canal, making it difficult to reach the cervix
- you may be ovulating, so your cervix is higher than usual
- your cervix may settle into a higher position during pregnancy
You may be able to locate your cervix using the following steps:
1. Empty your bladder before you begin. A full bladder can elevate your cervix, making it harder to find and feel.
2. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and antibacterial soap. If you don’t, you may push bacteria from your fingers or vaginal canal deeper into your body.
3. Position yourself so you have the most comfortable access to your cervix. Some people find that standing with one foot elevated, such as on a stepstool, provides easier access. Others prefer squatting.
4. If you want to actually see your cervix, place a mirror on the floor underneath your pelvis. You may have to use your nondominant hand to separate your labia for easier visualization.
Before moving on to step five, you may find it helpful to apply lubricant to the fingers you plan to insert. This will allow your fingers to slide in without friction or related discomfort.
5. Insert the index or middle finger (or both) on your dominant hand into your vagina. Note the way your skin changes texture as you move closer toward your cervix.
The vaginal canal usually has a softer, spongy-type feel. The cervix is usually firmer and may feel more smooth. That said, this texture can vary based on where you are in your menstrual cycle.
There are lots of analogies for how the cervix feels, from the “tip of your nose” to your “lips puckered in a kiss.”
6. Feel in the middle of your cervix for a slight dent or opening. Doctors call this the cervical os. Note your cervical texture and if your cervix feels slightly open or closed. These changes can indicate where you are in your menstrual cycle.
7. You may find it helpful to record your observations. You can write them down in a dedicated journal or record them on an app, such at the Kindara: Fertility Tracker. Although this app is primarily a fertility tracker, it allows you to log cervical changes.
You can also purchase a self-exam kit from the Beautiful Cervix Project that contains a reusable speculum, mirror, flashlight, and additional instructions. This site also has actual pictures of the cervix at various points throughout the average cycle.
You shouldn’t check your cervix if…
You also don’t want to check your cervix if you’re pregnant and your water has broken. Doing so could increase the risk of infection for you and your pregnancy.
The following chart explains some of the changes that take place in your cervix over the course of your menstrual cycle or pregnancy.
|High||Medium||Low||Soft||Firm||Completely open||Partially open||Completely closed|
Although these characteristics reflect the average cervix, it’s normal to experience slight variations.
It’s also important to note that people who have an inverted uterus may find that their cervical characteristics are the exact opposite of what’s listed in this chart.
If your cervix feels different than expected, talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider. They should be able to answer any questions you have.
During the follicular phase, your body is preparing the uterine lining for a fertilized egg to attach.
Estrogen levels are low now, so your cervix usually feels firmer. Estrogen will make it feel softer as your menstrual cycle progresses.
During ovulation, your estrogen levels start to rise. This causes the uterine lining to thicken, making it feel softer.
You’ll also start to notice more mucus coming from your cervix and vagina at this time. The mucus has a thin, slippery consistency.
If you take birth control pills that suppress ovulation, you may not notice these changes because you don’t ovulate.
During the luteal phase, your estrogen levels decrease, but progesterone remains to keep the uterine lining thick should a fertilized egg implant.
You’ll notice that your cervix may still feel soft. Your cervical mucus will get thicker though, and is usually sticky and somewhat cloudy in appearance.
Your cervix is typically open during menstruation, which allows menstrual blood and uterine tissue to leave your body.
The cervix is usually lower in the body and therefore easier to feel while you’re menstruating.
During vaginal intercourse, the cervix can change positions from higher to lower. This isn’t any indication of your ovulation status, just a natural change that takes place during sex.
If you’re tracking your ovulation, doctors don’t recommend checking your cervix during or after sex because you won’t get the most accurate results.
Sometimes the cervix can bleed slightly after sex. Although this isn’t an unusual occurrence, you should talk to a doctor if it’s more than light spotting.
In some cases, post-coital bleeding may be a sign of an underlying condition. Your provider can determine the underlying cause and advise you on any next steps.
Although you may use cervical checks to determine when you’re ovulating, this won’t reveal if you’re pregnant.
Some people do report seeing a change in cervix color — to blue or purple — but this isn’t a reliable way to confirm pregnancy.
If you think you might be pregnant, take a home pregnancy test on the first day of your missed period.
If your periods are irregular, aim for three weeks after the suspected date of conception.
If you receive a positive result, make an appointment with a doctor or other healthcare provider. They can confirm your results and discuss next steps.
During early pregnancy, you may notice your cervix is softer in appearance.
The cervix may appear more open (though not completely open). Other people may report their cervix is completely closed.
Some people also report that their cervix looks “puffy” or enlarged, which may be due to increasing hormonal changes.
As you approach labor, your cervix starts to open or dilate. The tissues there also start to get thinner. This is known as “effacement.”
Some people may have a cervix that dilates earlier in pregnancy, but remains at that dilation until labor begins.
If you plan to have a vaginal birth, your provider may conduct a cervical check when you’re nearing delivery to determine if your cervix is dilated and effaced.
Your cervix should be fully dilated — which is usually about 10 centimeters — to allow the baby to pass through the vaginal canal.
As your uterus starts to return to its prepregnancy size, your cervix may remain slightly open for some time.
Some people find that their cervix stays remains more open than it previously was after vaginal childbirth.
The cervix will usually get progressively higher until it reaches its most common position postpartum. It will also start to firm up with time.
Although these can be normal cervical changes, they do warrant further examination.
The same is true if you use a mirror to view your cervix and notice visible changes, such as red, blue, or black lesions, on your cervix.
These may be a sign of an underlying condition, such as endometriosis.