Whether you’re trying to conceive, sporting a baby bump or you want to get to know your body better, knowing how to check your cervix safely is worth familiarizing yourself with.
But where do you start?
What should a cervix feel like?
And where exactly is the cervix?
Let’s find out.
In this article: 📝
- How to find your cervix
- How do you know if you’re touching your cervix?
- How do you know if your cervix is open or closed?
- How to check your cervix for pregnancy
- How can I check my cervix for dilation at home?
- What happens in a cervical exam?
- Quick tips for checking your cervix
How to find your cervix
So where exactly is the cervix, and how can you find it for a safe self-cervix check?
Well, first things first, it’s always best to leave it to the healthcare professionals.
They’re trained to know if there’s anything unusual going on up there, and they know how to perform a safe cervix check.
But if you’re determined to do a cervix check yourself (without a speculum), here’s your step-by-step:
- Choose a time when you’re relaxed and have privacy, Like in the bath or after a nice warm shower. Being tense could make this a bit trickier.
- Trim your nails to prevent scratching or injuring your (ahem) sensitive areas.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water to prevent introducing bacteria into your vagina or upsetting your vaginal pH balance. Avoid checking your cervix if you have an active infection, let it pass before trying anything.
- Find a comfortable position where you can easily reach your vagina. Some women prefer squatting on the toilet, while others prefer sitting on the edge of a bed or standing with one leg elevated on a stool.
- Insert your index or middle finger into your vagina and gently push it up and a little to the front, slightly toward your belly button.
- Lube can be your friend here, if you’re feeling a little dry. It might make it reduce any friction and make the entry more smooth.
- Your cervix should feel a little firmer than your vaginal walls, at the end of the vagina, about the length of your finger, with a small dent in the middle (hello, cervical opening!).
- If you have trouble finding your cervix, try using a mirror.
- If you experience any discomfort, stop immediately. It shouldn’t hurt to find your cervix — if you’re not sure or it hurts even a bit, it’s best to visit your doctor.
How far up is your cervix?
Well, the position of your cervix changes throughout your menstrual cycle.
Here’s a general guideline during each phase:
- High and firm: Follicular phase (before ovulation)
- High and soft: Ovulation
- Low and firm: Luteal phase (after ovulation)
How do you know if you’re touching your cervix?
Your cervix feels different from the walls of your vagina — like a firm, round nub at the end of your vaginal canal.
So if you feel something a little firmer at the back of your vaginal canal, that’s your cervix.
But the firmness can change — before and after ovulation, it’s sort of got the same firmness as the tip of your nose, but when you’re ovulating, it’s closer to the firmness of lips or ear lobe.
Who’s touching their nose, ear, and lips right now?
Is it OK to touch your cervix with your finger?
Yes, it’s perfectly safe to touch your cervix with your finger, as long as your hands are clean and your nails are trimmed — you don’t want to introduce any nasty bacteria or cause any damage with sharp nails.
And sometimes, you might find that you bump your cervix during sex — usually with a finger or a sex toy.
Some people can actually find it pleasurable to touch their cervix with a little pressure, but others might find it more uncomfortable — we’re all different, after all!
Why can I feel my cervix all of a sudden?
There are a few reasons why you might suddenly be able to feel your cervix:
- Hormonal changes: Your cervix changes position throughout your menstrual cycle, and you may be more likely to feel it during ovulation or before your period.
- Pregnancy: The cervix softens and becomes more open during pregnancy, making it easier to feel.
- Certain medications: Some medications, like Clomid, can cause your cervix to get lower and firmer.
How do you know if your cervix is open or closed?
When your cervix is closed (like before or after ovulation), it’ll feel similar to the tip of your nose — smooth and firm, with a divot in the middle.
When it’s open, like during ovulation, it’s softer, more like the feeling of your lips or ear lobe.
Why does it open and close?
Well, it’s all about keeping your body safe from unwanted bacteria and germs — but when it’s open, it’s making things easier for sperm to get access to fertilize your egg of the month.
How to check your cervix for pregnancy
First, a quick caveat: checking your cervix for pregnancy is not a reliable pregnancy test, because changes in your cervical position and texture can be due to lots of other reasons.
But if you’re experiencing other early signs of pregnancy, checking your cervix could give you some additional information.
Although it’s worth noting as well that if you think you could be pregnant, it can be better to leave your cervix check to a healthcare professional, so you can be sure no unwanted bacteria get up there.
What does a pregnant cervix feel like?
A pregnant cervix is typically softer than a non-pregnant cervix.
But it can also feel softer at different points in your menstrual cycle (like ovulation), or due to other things, like certain medications.
How can I check my cervix for dilation at home?
If you’re pregnant, cervical dilation is your body’s way of letting you know that baby’s on the way!
Your cervix dilates up to 10 centimeters during labor, and your midwife will be able to tell you how much you’re dilated by doing their own cervical exam, with sterile gloves.
Checking for dilation at home isn’t recommended, since you could introduce bacteria — and it’s pretty hard to accurately gauge measurements from your angle!
What happens in a cervical exam?
You might get a cervical exam if you’re pregnant if you present with any symptoms that might relate to the cervix or need verifying the cervix is open/closed.
During the exam, your healthcare provider will use a speculum (a metal or plastic tool to get a better view of your vaginal canal) to check the position, firmness, and openness of your cervix.
If you’re further along in your pregnancy, they can also do a cervical check to see which “cervical ripening” methods would be best for your body and your situation — usually one of the first stages of inducing labor.
They may also use a swab to collect cells from your cervix for a Pap smear test.
And, as always, if you have any questions to ask, fire away — there’s no such thing as a silly question, especially when it’s about your health.
Does it hurt when they check for dilation?
Sometimes, yes, a cervical exam can cause some discomfort or even a bit of pain — but it’s usually brief.
Sometimes checking for dilation can hurt, especially if you’re in labor.
If you’re concerned, let your healthcare provider know — your well-being is worth advocating for.
They might offer you some pain relief methods to make the examination more comfortable.
Can a cervical check cause labor?
No, a cervical check can’t induce labor.
Labor is triggered by a complex interplay of hormones and physical changes in the body.
But, during your cervical exam, especially if you’re past your due date, your healthcare provider may recommend doing a membrane sweep, where they manually separate your amniotic sac from your uterus, which can trigger labor.
If you’d rather not have a membrane sweep done, speak up, there are usually options available.
But they wouldn’t do one without your consent anyway.
Can I refuse a cervical exam?
Yes, you can ask not to have a cervical exam during pregnancy (or any time in your life).
There are often other methods to check your cervix, although cervical exams are recommended.
If you choose to decline your cervical exam, your healthcare provider will explain any risks and options to you, along with the benefits of a cervical exam, so you can make an informed decision that’s right for you.
Your body, your choice.
Quick tips for checking your cervix
- Be gentle: Don’t force your finger, and if you feel any discomfort, stop straightaway and speak to your healthcare provider.
- Use a lubricant: If your vagina is dry, you can use a water-based lube to make it easier to insert your finger.
- Monitor changes: Pay attention to any changes in the position, firmness, or opening of your cervix. If you notice any significant changes, consult your healthcare provider.
Remember, checking your cervix is not a substitute for regular prenatal care.
Your healthcare provider can provide personalized guidance and monitor your overall health throughout your pregnancy.
And if you’re unsure about how to check your cervix, your doctor is always the best port of call.