Your beautiful cervix.
Let’s discuss this amazingly important part of your body that because you typically never “see” it, often becomes forgotten or extremely unfamiliar to you. For this reason, I would encourage you to think for a brief moment about this sacred place that is uniquely given to women. This special muscle that sits at the base of your uterus, allows for your menstrual cycle to flow from your uterus to your vagina, allows for the travel of sperm during impregnation, acts as a physical and bacterial barrier through the mechanism of a mucus plug during pregnancy, and through becoming familiar with the production of cervical mucus and shape can becomes a highly reliable form of birth control.
Before I go too far, I want to express a small blurb on why I care so much about my (and your!) cervical health. In 2015, I was diagnosed with multiple strains of high risk HPV (and low risk HPV) that caused my cervix to accrue a great deal of cellular damage (I will go into further detail in my next article on this). I was told by doctors that if I didn’t act soon, I was headed for cervical cancer sooner than later. This is when my eyes became opened to a whole new part of my body- my cervix. I began to study, read, listen and become familiar with this place. Ultimately (and a crucial part of my journey) I fell in love with the function, health and strength of my cervix. So, I tell my story not to create fear in any form. That is never my intention. My ultimate goal is to empower women with knowledge so a story like mine does not happen. Or in a rare scenario, if it does, you will know how to take empowered steps towards wellness.
Birth Control through cervical knowledge. Now back to your cervix and how you can begin getting to know it. Many women have used what is called, “The rhythm method”, temperature method or Natural family planning as a form of birth control. I want to preface this with, no birth control is 100%, so caution when having sex is always recommended. But, these methods of natural family planning clearly show the importance of becoming familiar with your cervix because they rely primarily on three factors: your basal temperature, your texture/viscosity of cervical fluid and finally, the shape/firmness of you cervix to figure out when ovulation is occuring. By knowing when ovulation is occuring those are able to avoid sex or using a backup method of these days. This means that the majority of this type of birth control method functions on women becoming familiar with their cervix. So, how do you do this? A book recommendation that I would wholeheartedly recommend would be “ Taking Charge of Your Fertility.” This will go into greater detail than I can within this article. But, in a short summary, this method requires women to keep a chart either on their phone through apps like: cycle beads, lady cycle and natural cycles. Or, if you are not the biggest fan of your phone and love to go back to the ole paper and pen, this is highly effective too. Once you have chosen your method for charting, each day you begin by waking up, taking your basal temperature, which simply means your temperature before moving around too much. You will record this for a few months to begin noting trends. On a day in which a large temperature spike (greater than 1 degree occurs) & barring the fact you are not sick with a fever, then you are more than likely ovulating. Now let’s discuss how your cervix comes into play for birth control. You will simply use your fingers to check your cervical fluid. The more closer to being fertile that you are, the more clear and stretchy the fluid will be. Some often refer to it as similar to egg whites. The less fertile and further away from ovulation, the fluid will be tacky/sticky and thick or hardly present at all. Finally, the last part of this method includes checking your cervical shape and firmness. For the days approaching ovulation your cervix becomes soft, high, open and wet. Then after ovulation, these signs reverse and you cervix becomes firm, low, closed and dry. After a bit of time and a clear observation of your body trends, you will be able to tell when you are approaching ovulation, ovulating and finally, when you are post ovulation, you will know fertility is not likely.
Cervix & Pregnancy. Now for those who are pregnant, have been pregnant or wish to become pregnant, the cervix plays a huge role in this stage of life. In order to get pregnant, the right timing has to be in place and this timing relies heavily on the cervix. If the cervical position and fluid is not correct, sperm are not able to travel into the uterus. Out of the 100 million sperm, only 50 actually make it in the uterus through the minefield that is the cervical fluid. Then after the miracle of one sperm meets the egg and implantation occurs, something known as the mucus plug begins to form. This forms at the top of the cervix and creates a barrier between the outside world and your growing baby. This barrier includes blocking outside bacteria and harmful pathogens from entering into the womb. So next time you look at your beautiful child, you can thank your cervix for playing a large role.
Beautiful Cervix Project. I give my honor and utmost appreciation to a lady who began a website know called “The Beautiful Cervix Project” with the intention of getting women to become more familiar with their cervix. Throughout this project she reported she realized “Cervixes are amazing!” In order to accomplish this, she purchased a speculum, and began getting her husband to take photos of her cervix for one calendar month so she could document her cervix during all of the phases of her cycle. These pictures clearly show different types, textures, colors and viscosity of cervical fluid while also showing the different shapes, positions and firmness of the cervix. A great beginners guide. As her project began to take form, other women decided to take pictures of their cervix at different phases of life including: pregnancy, post-natal, with IUD’s and after various surgeries. For more information on this project please visit: http://beautifulcervix.com/
Pap Smears. After you begin to acquaint yourself with your cervix, you will have a newfound appreciation for the routine exam, pap smears. If you begin to see daily changes with your cervix on a physical level, you eventually will probably like to know a cellular level what is going on. As most know, the routine exam of a pap smear is simply a swab of cells from the cervical canal that are analyzed for patterns of cells to look for the the unwanted precancerous/cancer cells. It was because of this routine pap visit that I was able to catch my abnormal cervical cells and reverse the damage before they turned to cancer. So we all know a pap smear is never fun but it undeniably serves an important function for preventative health and in all reality, the uncomfortable nature of it only last 30 seconds (at most!)- you’ve got that girl! Not only because of my personal story, but also because of evidence based research around the prevention of cancers that can occur through the use of pap smears, I am huge advocate for this routine exam during your next OBGYN visit. The current medical guidelines are to get a pap smear as soon as you have sex or once you turn 21 (whichever one comes first) and after that every 3 years, unless an abnormal pap is found then repeat paps are done every year. So instead of skipping your appointment, thinking you don’t need one because you aren’t currently having sex or simply don’t see the importance, please think twice and go, I urge you. Now go become familiar with this uniquely amazing part of your body!
In coming articles we will discuss, common cervical infections (including one that is common but often misdiagnosed), HPV, cervical dysplasia and what to do if you have an abnormal pap!
M.S in Holistic Health & Cervical health advocate
*I am not intending to be treating, diagnosing or over speaking any medical advice that you may have been given through your doctor or OBGYN*