How to Check Your Cervix and Cervical Position

What Your Cervix Can (and Can't) Tell You About Your Fertility

Woman washing her hands before checking her cervical position
Always wash your hands before checking your cervix. Michael Hevesy/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Learning how to check your cervix is easier than you think, It may sound like something only taught to doctors and nurses, but there’s no reason a woman can’t learn where her cervix is and how to notice changes in cervical position. 

Why check your cervical position? If you're trying to get pregnant, this can be key information.  You can detect ovulation by tracking cervical changes. Your cervix goes through subtle changes throughout your menstrual cycle.

You can detect when you're most fertile and when you've already ovulated by checking it. 

Your cervix also hanges during late pregnancy and childbirth. You probably know this from the movies. When the television doctors say "She's 10 centimeters!" they are talking about dilation of the the cervix. The cervix shortens, thins, and dilates during childbirth. It morphs from being tightly shut and hard at the start of pregnancy to 10 centimeters wide and completely effaced (or thinned out) at birth. It is possible for you to notice these changes yourself.

Step by Step Instructions on How to Check Your Cervix 

Whether you're checking your cervix for ovulation, out of curiosity, or during pregnancy, here's how to get started.  First, wash your hands very well. It’s vital that you don’t introduce any kind of infection into your reproductive system. (If you’re dealing with a yeast infection or any other kind of vaginal infection, you should wait for the infection to clear up before checking your cervix.)

If you're in labor and want to check your cervix, keep in mind that repeated checks can introduce bacteria, something you do not want. This is especially true if your water has already broken. While you can check your cervix yourself, don't check too often, and always make sure your hands are very clean.

Find a comfortable position that will allow you to easily reach your cervix That may be sitting on the toilet, putting one leg up on the edge of the bathtub or squatting.

Understand where your cervix is. If you think of your vagina as a hallway, your cervix is the door at the end. While your vagina has a sort of spongy feel that gives way to pressure, the cervix is like a firm, round dimple.

Reach your index or middle finger inside of your vagina, and slowly slide your finger in as far as you can reach, a sort of in and upward motion. If you’re not close to ovulation, you should find your cervix easily. If you are ovulating, your cervix may be higher in your body and more difficult to reach.

Write down your cervical position on a fertility chart.Taking note of what you feel will not only help you understand the changes better, it will also help you detect ovulation. More on this next.

If you're feeling nervous, don't be. You’re not going to hurt yourself.

Tips on What to Expect When Checking Your Cervix

Don’t expect to understand what you’re feeling the first, second or even tenth time you try — this is a skill that comes from practice and patience.

Once you learn what the signs are by experiencing the changes in your cervix throughout a few cycles, you’ll be a pro.

Don’t check your cervical position during or after sex. Your cervix moves around according to your level of sexual arousal, regardless of ovulation.

When you’re just learning, try to check your cervical position every so many days, even when you don’t think you’re ovulating. It’s easier to find when you’re not ovulating, and you’ll have a better idea of what you’re feeling.

Check your cervical position at the same time every day. It may be a good time to do it when you get dressed in the morning.

How Your Cervix Changes Before, During, and After Ovulation

There are three changes you are feeling for when checking your cervix. First, is your cervix's position high, medium, or low? as you approach ovulation, your cervix moves up and back. It may be so high that you can't reach it. 

Does your cervix feel soft or firm? Estrogen softens the cervical tissue, making it feel softer (or less firm) when you're most fertile.  Some say it feels like the tip of your nose when you’re not fertile and like the firmness of your lips when you are fertile.

Is your cervix open or closed? Your cervix will be just slightly open just before ovulation. The opening is tiny -- no more than a thin slit.

It will open again just before and during menstruation. However, during your period, the cervix will be lower (and not high, like it is before ovulation.) 

If your cervix always feels slightly open, don’t worry. Especially if you’ve ever given birth (that can include a miscarriage), your cervix may never fully close. As ovulation approaches, you’ll still be able to notice the height and softness changes of the cervix, though.

A cervix that is high, soft, and open is a fertile cervix. Low, firm and closed is not a fertile sign and you’re probably not ovulating yet or you have already ovulated.

Cervical Mucus and Cervical Position

When you're checking your cervical position, you should also pay attention to your cervical mucus. 

The same hormones that change your cervix affect cervical mucus. Also known as cervical fluid or just vaginal discharge, your cervical mucus also changes as you approach ovulation. 

Paying attention to several ovulation signs is the best way to detect your most fertile time. Research has found that having sex when you have fertile cervical mucus may be the best way to time sex for pregnancy. 

Some women try to figure out if they’re pregnant by checking their cervical position. Unfortunately, there is no way to know whether you’re pregnant by checking your cervical position.

You just have to wait until you can take a pregnancy test

Can You Tell If You're About to Go Into Labor by Checking Your Cervix?

If you're pregnant and getting close to your due date, your may be hoping to determine when you'll go into labor by checking your cervical dilation. 

It's true that many gynecologists check the cervix at every well-check appointment in the last month of pregnancy. They may tell you how your cervix is changing, along with which "station" the baby is at.

You might assume these are signs you'll go into labor soon -- but actually, they're not. 

You can be dilated 3 centimeters for your last three weeks but not go into labor until your due date or later. And you can also have no cervical dilation until the day you give birth and then dilate to 10 centimeters quickly.

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