Checking Your Cervix at Home: What to Look for & What It Can Tell You
Your cervix is an important part of your body — not just if you are looking to get (or avoid getting) pregnant, but also for overall reproductive health. Checking the position of your cervix at home can help you get to know your menstrual cycle and better understand the way your body works.
But what is the cervix? And what are you feeling for? Rummaging around blindly is not the proper way to find the cervix. You should have an understanding of what you are feeling for, what’s normal, and what’s abnormal before you try to check your cervix at home.
In this post, we’ll explain what the cervix is, why you should check your cervix regularly, and how to locate the cervix in the vagina to help you better perform a proper self-check at home.
Get to Know Your Cervix: What It Is and What It Does
The cervix is a donut-shaped organ located at the bottom of the uterus. Your cervix extends into the vagina and serves as the exit point for menstrual blood and, if pregnant, a baby to exit the womb. The average cervix is about 2.5 to 3.5 cm long and connects to the uterus via the cervical canal.
Why should you check your cervix?
It’s important to be familiar with what your cervix normally feels like so you can keep an eye on changes such as polyps, cysts, or potential cancer. However, you should also know that your cervix can tell you a lot about your fertility, as it feels differently at different points in the menstrual cycle.
For couples trying to conceive, checking your cervix can help you identify times when you are more or less fertile. You can use your cervical position, alongside other methods like the Mira digital hormone tracker, to help track your ovulation and fertile window. Some women even chart their cervical mucus and position as a form of natural birth control.
Checking Your Cervix
Each woman’s cervix is unique in that no two cervixes change in the exact same way prior to ovulation. Therefore, the best way to get to know your unique cervical changes is to regularly perform manual self-checks at home. You can check the position of your cervix by gently inserting a finger into the vagina, which we will explain how to do later on.
However, before you try feeling for your cervix at home, you should understand the basics of what’s considered normal and abnormal when it comes to cervical anatomy.
What to Look For
When checking your cervix, you’re looking for a donut-shaped structure at the front or top of the vagina. The structure can be hard or soft, and the os (or opening) can be open or closed, depending on where in your menstrual cycle you are.
The cervix also produces secretions called mucus, which changes consistency and color throughout your menstrual cycle. During times when you are most fertile, your cervical mucus becomes clear, slippery, and hospitable to sperm. When you are not fertile, it is white or off-white, thicker, and creamier, meaning sperm cannot pass through it as easily.
It takes time to notice these changes, but know that in most cases, the changes in your cervix are perfectly normal and you have nothing to worry about.
Potentially serious signs and symptoms to watch out for include:
- Bumps or growths. Occasionally, you may feel a small bump or growth on the side of your cervix. This could be a cervical polyp or something called a Nabothian cyst. Both of these changes are harmless, but it is still a good idea to visit your doctor to rule out more serious conditions, especially if you have other abnormal symptoms.
- Changes in cervical mucus. Most women will get a vaginal infection at some point in their lives. If you have a vaginal infection, such as a yeast infection or bacterial vaginitis, you may notice abnormal changes in the consistency of your cervical mucus. Yeast infections cause thick, cottage-cheese-like discharge, while bacterial vaginitis causes thin, watery, grey discharge with a fishy smell. While it is less common, you could also get an infection called trichomoniasis, which causes frothy, greenish-yellow discharge.
- Abnormal bleeding. Bleeding between periods, often called spotting, is considered abnormal. The most common cause of abnormal bleeding is hormonal birth control use, as spotting can be a side effect of these medications. However, bleeding from the cervix could also indicate a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or, more rarely, cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 35 and 44 and may be more likely if you have a family history.
If you notice any of these abnormal changes, schedule an appointment with your doctor. They may want to run tests for vaginal infections, STIs, and/or cervical cancer to ensure that your symptoms are not due to a serious medical condition.
How to Check Your Cervix
It takes practice to locate your cervix and notice the subtle changes it undergoes throughout your menstrual cycle, but doing so can help you better understand your menstrual cycle, fertility, and overall health.
Depending on why you are checking your cervix, you may want to check it anywhere from once a month to twice a day. You should check it up to two times per day if you are charting your cervical changes in order to conceive or as a form of birth control. If you’re just checking to make sure there are no abnormalities, then once a month is fine.
Showering, bathing, or using the bathroom offers a private, quiet moment for you to feel for your cervix. When you check your cervix, you should always take note of the way it feels and any secretions it produces. You can keep a chart of your findings, which can help you better understand your menstrual cycle over time.
Here is how to check your cervix at home:
Step One: Prepare
When preparing to check your cervix, it’s important to make sure your hands are clean and well-groomed. You’ll want to wash your hands well and trim and file any sharp edges on your fingernails to prevent spreading bacteria or cutting yourself while feeling for your cervix.
Step Two: Get Into Position
It’s important that you are comfortable and relaxed so that you do not experience pain while checking your cervix. Start with the position you use to insert a tampon. If you do not use tampons, many women find that squatting, laying down, or standing with one leg on the edge of the bathtub works well. It may take a few tries to find the most comfortable position for you.
Step Three: Gently Insert a Finger
When you are ready, gently insert your pointer or middle finger into the vagina. You may want to take a few deep breaths first to help you relax. Once inside, reach toward the upper front or top of the vagina and feel for something round and slightly hard, with an opening in the middle. Know that it may take many tries before you are able to find the cervix, and that it may be more difficult to locate if you are very fertile or if you have an abnormally positioned uterus.
Step Four: Chart Your Findings
Notice and record any changes you notice in the location, feel, and secretions of your cervix throughout the menstrual cycle. Over time, you may begin to notice patterns in these changes that indicate when you are becoming more or less fertile. This can help you better plan to conceive or prevent pregnancy.
Tips and Advice
Whether you can’t find your cervix or aren’t sure if what you’re feeling is your cervix or not, you may find yourself with lingering questions about self checks — even once you’ve tried it for yourself. Here are some tips and advice to help you get it right.
What does it feel like?
Some people say that the cervix feels soft and rubbery, like the tip of your nose. Other people say it feels like a donut: round with a slight impression in the middle (the os). Depending on what point you are in during your menstrual cycle, your cervix could feel softer or harder; open or closed. But no matter what point you are in, your cervix should feel distinct from the rest of your vagina, and should be a roundish appendage with a slight opening in the middle.
Open vs. Closed
What does it mean when we say that your cervix is “open” or “closed?” When we say open or closed, we’re talking specifically about the os, or the opening at the center of the cervix. This opening widens and softens when you are fertile to allow sperm to travel up the cervical canal to fertilize an egg during ovulation. When you are not fertile, it closes and becomes rigid to prevent the passage of bacteria and foreign bodies into the uterus.
High vs. Low
When it comes to a “high” or “low” cervix, we’re talking about the position of the cervix within your vagina. Most women’s vaginas rest at a slight upward angle. During the most fertile time of the month, your cervix moves farther back and upwards, meaning it may be further from the vaginal opening than usual. When you are less fertile, you probably will not need to reach as far into the vagina to find the cervix, since it should rest closer to the vaginal opening.
What if I can’t find it?
If you’ve tried to find your cervix multiple times to no avail, you might find yourself in a panic. Luckily, you have nothing to worry about: many women have difficulty finding their cervix, even if they have practiced many times. Chances are, you will find it if you continue to practice.
If you find it especially challenging to locate your cervix, you may have a tilted, or retroverted, uterus. This is a harmless variation in uterine anatomy, similar to being right- or left-handed, but it may mean that your cervix rests farther toward the back of the vagina and is difficult to feel.
If you have difficulty finding your cervix, you should not rely on charting your cervical changes as a form of birth control until you become more comfortable finding your cervix. Instead, use a backup method like a condom while you are learning to locate your cervix with ease.
Cervix Positions: What They and Feel Like and Their Significance
Your cervix follows a reliable pattern of changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Many of these changes can be felt by checking your cervix at home. By keeping track of those changes, you can identify where in your cycle you may be and how fertile you are on any given day.
During the menstrual phase, the cervix feels low, hard, and slightly open. This allows blood to flow from the uterus into the vagina.
Before ovulation, in the follicular phase, the cervix remains low and hard, but the opening of the cervix — also known as the os — becomes closed. It may produce no discharge or a creamy white or whitish-yellow discharge.
At ovulation, your most fertile point, the cervix becomes soft and open to allow sperm to enter the uterus and fertilize an egg. It will rise up to the top of the vagina, which can make it difficult to feel, and produce a stretchy, clear discharge similar to the white of an egg.
You should know that checking your cervical position and mucus is most reliable at predicting ovulation when used in combination with other methods. Some women, such as those who have had a previous vaginal birth, may have a softer cervix than average and find it difficult to pinpoint ovulation with cervical changes alone.
If this sounds like you, using a digital fertility tracker like Mira to identify ovulation with precision may help. Mira tracks your exact hormone concentration levels, which you can use in combination with cervical changes to track ovulation.
If an egg is not fertilized at ovulation, you will enter the luteal phase and the cervix will drop again and become hard and closed once more. As in the follicular phase, your cervix may produce no discharge or a creamy white or whitish-yellow discharge. This remains the same until the next menstrual period.