The inner workings of the womb and the cervix might feel a little mysterious at first. But knowledge is power, and getting acquainted with your uterus’ window to the world – that is, the cervix – can tell you a lot. Let’s run through how the cervix changes over the course of your menstrual cycle, and what this means for you when you’re trying to conceive.
What does cervical position tell?
Let’s start by considering what the cervix is and what it does. The cervix is the lowermost part of your uterus, where it connects up with the vagina. It has a tiny opening onto the vagina called the external os.
However, the cervix isn’t fixed in stone up there: it moves around and changes texture and firmness over the menstrual cycle. Getting a bit more familiar with these changes can give you some useful hints about where you’re up to in your cycle, and whether or not you’re likely to be fertile at this time.
How to check your cervical position
Cervical position is something you can get a feel for – literally. A manual self-exam (i.e. using your hands) is a quick and easy way to go about it, although it may take a little practice to do it properly.
To make sure you’re getting the most accurate picture of what’s going on, do this self-exam at the same time, every day, in the same situation and in the same position each time. Don’t check after intercourse or when you’re feeling sexually aroused, as your cervical position changes in response to it.
Wash your hands well with soap and water, and make sure your nails are short and trimmed so you don’t hurt yourself.
Wet your hands or use a personal lubricant to make things easier, and reach into your vagina with your index finger or middle finger. You may find it more comfortable to squat or rest one foot on a stool.
Feel around for the cervix. The cervix will feel like a slight bulge about 3 to 6 inches inside the vagina. Be gentle so you don’t hurt yourself.
Make a note of whether the cervix is:
- high or low in the vagina
- soft or firm to the touch
- open or closed at the cervical os
- wet or dry
But as for how low is “low”? How soft is “soft”? That depends on the person. For instance, the cervix of someone who’s given birth before is quite different to someone who hasn’t. The best way to understand what’s normal for your cycle is to follow consistently over the course of a few cycles.
How does cervical position change over the menstrual cycle?
So, now you know how to get acquainted with your cervix, let’s go through the changes of a cervical position which occur over the course of the month.
1. During a period
The cervical position is low in the vagina. The os is slightly open to let out the menstrual flow. The cervix itself feels hard.
2. After a period
The cervix stays low in the vagina, and the os is closed. The cervix remains hard.
3. Approaching ovulation
The cervix moves up higher in the vagina and becomes softer and wetter as you produce more fertile cervical mucus.
4. Around ovulation (peak fertility)
When you are at the most fertile time of your cycle, the cervix is soft, high, open and wet. You can remember this through the acronym S.H.O.W. This gives sperms the best chance of entering the uterus.
5. After ovulation
After you pass the fertile window of your cycle, the cervix moves back down low and the os is closed. The cervix firms up until it is hard to the touch, and it feels dry.
Cervix position before period vs. Early pregnancy
The cervix feels quite different during pregnancy. If you’re about to get a period, the cervix is low, closed, and hard. But during pregnancy, the cervix rises up high, the os is tightly closed, but the cervix itself is soft.
In theory, you can the difference between a pregnant cervix and a nonpregnant cervix through these changes. However, that doesn’t mean you can use this as an early pregnancy test because how the changes appear varies from person to person. The only way to be sure is to wait until you can take an actual pregnancy test, either at home or your doctor’s office.
Get to know your cervical position!
If you’re trying to conceive, being able to do the cervical position check is a great skill to have in your fertility awareness tool-kit. However, it does take a bit of diligence and practice to get the information you’re after. Some people are also uncomfortable with performing a self-exam, and that’s OK.
Cervical position can be checked alongside other natural fertility markers, like your basal body temperature (BBT) and changes in cervical mucus. Using a combination of these will help you understand your body. Whether or not you’re trying to get pregnant, learning more about these natural patterns in your fertility cycle can be an empowering step to take.