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 over the course of the menstrual cycle.
Why Check Your Cervix
If you’re trying to get pregnant, checking your cervical position can provide key information to help identify your fertile window (or the ideal time to have sex for the best chance to conceive). Your cervix goes through subtle changes throughout your menstrual cycle.1
Cervical changes can help you to detect ovulation, determine when you’re most fertile, and indicate when ovulation has likely already occurred.
Your cervix also changes 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 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.
Tips for Checking Your Cervix
Don’t expect to understand what you’re feeling the first, second, or even tenth time you try checking your cervix. This is a skill that comes from practice and patience. But once you learn what the signs are, 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 where you are in your menstrual cycle.
- 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 or during/after your shower.
Whether you’re checking your cervix for ovulation, during pregnancy, or simply out of curiosity, there are steps you can take to locate and record the position of your cervix. If you’re feeling nervous, don’t be. You’re not going to hurt yourself.
Here’s how to get started:
- Wash your hands very well. It’s vital that you don’t introduce any kind of infection into your reproductive system.2 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.
- Take precautions. 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.3 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. Your body position should 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.
- Reach your finger inside of your vagina. Use the index or middle finger and slowly slide your finger in as far as you can reach, in sort of an upward motion. If you think of your vagina as a hallway, your cervix is the door at the end.
- Locate the cervix. While your vagina has a sort of spongy feel that gives way to pressure, the cervix is like a firm, round dimple. 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, softer, and more difficult to reach.
- Record your cervical position. Keep these notes 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 your fertile window.
What to Look For
There are several changes you are feeling for when checking your cervix. As you get more comfortable with the process, try to look for these changes.
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.4 However, during your period, the cervix will be lower in the vagina (and not higher, 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.
You’ll want to notice if 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.
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.
- A cervix that is high, soft, and open is a fertile cervix.
- A cervix that is low, firm and closed is not a fertile sign, and you’re probably not ovulating yet—or you have already ovulated.
When you’re checking your cervical position, you should also pay attention to your cervical mucus. The same hormones that change your cervix also affect cervical mucus. Also known as cervical fluid or vaginal discharge, your cervical mucus changes as you approach ovulation.5
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.6
Checking for Cervical Dilation
If you’re pregnant and getting close to your due date, you may be hoping to determine when you’ll go into labor by checking your cervical dilation. Some women hope they can determine if they are going into labor.
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 the baby’s “station.”
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.