The other day I was scrolling through a natural moms facebook group...something I really shouldn't do because it almost always brings out the worst in me in new and interesting ways. Guess you can't work on yourself until you see the darkness right...Right?!
Anyways, a mom posted about cervical checks, she asked why women don't check themselves prenatally or during labor if they want the information. And I thought HUH! I have never once encouraged a mama to do that! I regard myself as pretty bodily empowered, I check my own cervix during the month, I've seen my own cervix, I've removed an IUD from my body, and yet when I think about being in labor I imagine my midwife checking my cervix.
What is a cervix you ask?
The cervix is a cylinder-shaped neck of tissue that connects the vagina and uterus. Anyone who has looked through galleries of cervices on the Beautiful Cervix Project will know that each cervix looks different and that they change position, shape, and color depending on where we are in our cycles, our age, and our health.
Here's my friend Heather talking about checking her cervix during one of her births:
"I checked my cervix during labor because I knew what it felt like before from trying to conceive. I was feeling discouraged with my labor so I wanted to see what was going on. When I felt it swollen shut rather than opening I realized her head was in front of my cervix rather than on it which led me to sit on the ball to align things. Clearly it worked because she was born less than an hour later.
I think women really shouldn't be afraid of their bodies and should know their cervix. I'm not a huge fan of allll the cervix checks routinely done but I was wanting a check then and took matters into my own hands."
How do I find it?
- First, wash your hands thoroughly to avoid introducing bacteria which could lead to infection.
- You’ll want a comfortable, warm and private location where you can either lie down or squat. The shower or the toilet can be perfect for this. You can try placing one foot on a toilet or shower edge and squat slightly or sit on the toilet with one foot on the floor and one up on the seat of the toilet/a stool that's close the the toilet.
- Put two fingers in and go up and back towards your bum. You may have to use your fingers to drag your cervix from the back wall of the vagina forward so that you can feel the opening.
What will I feel?
- "The cervix in a pregnant woman feels like your lips puckered up into a kiss. On a non-pregnant woman it feels like the end of your nose. When it is dilating, one finger slips into the middle of the cervix easily. As the dilation progresses the inside of that hole becomes more like a taught elastic band and by 5 cms dilated (5 fingerwidths) it is a perfect rubbery circle like one of those Mason jar rings that you use for canning, and about that thick."
What’s in the centre of that opening space is the membranes (bag of waters) that are covering the baby’s head and feel like a latex balloon filled with water. If you push on them a bit you’ll feel the baby’s head like a hard ball (as in baseball). If the waters have released you’ll feel the babe’s head directly." From Canadian midwife Gloria Lemay
Fellow blogger Lindsey recounts on Mother Rising what it was like checking her own cervix throughout pregnancy:
"In early pregnancy it was soft and mushy, in the beginning of the second trimester is was hard, firm (like the tip of my nose) and VERY anterior (angled towards the front of my body). Now, in the third trimester, it is posterior (facing towards my back), hard to reach and very mushy."
You should not check your cervix IF:
- If you are at risk for pre-term labor
- If you have a low lying placenta OR your placenta is covering your cervix (placenta previa)
- If you have unexplained bleeding
- If you have a cerclage
- If your water is broken...introducing bacteria via a vaginal exam increases chances of developing an infection.