Do you know anything about the changes in your cervix before the period vs early pregnancy? Your cervix goes through subtle changes at different points during your cycle, which serves as different indicators.
For instance, besides those early pregnancy signs you may have a vague idea about, how can you know that you have to eat for two? Even pregnancy tests aren’t exactly accurate at the beginning of a missed period. And going to the doctor every time you miss a period is not practical.
Here, the savior who can spill the beans first is your cervix! If you have no idea about this trait of the doughnut-tube, keep reading and find out what all can your cervix tell you.
Cervix Before Period VS Early Pregnancy
If you didn’t know, the cervix is the tube-structured, circular band of muscle that is the entrance to the womb and what separates the vagina from the uterus. Though 3 to 5 centimeters in length, the cervix feels like a ball high inside your vagina. It sits between the uterus (at the lower of it) and vagina and serves as basically a pathway from the vagina to your uterus. Thus, sperm makes its way through the cervical opening to fertilize the egg.
This particular organ changes. It does not stay the same before and after conception, which is why tracking its changes may help you detect early pregnancy even before a pregnancy test does.
If you are trying to conceive, checking the changes in your cervix can help you identify your fertile window —the ideal time to have sex, detect ovulation, determine when you are most fertile, and also indicate when ovulation has already occurred. So, if you know what to look for, you get to pick on your pregnancy cues way earlier than you planned.
But how can you check the changes in the cervix? Well, it’s not just for the doctors and nurses nor does it need any tool only available at the doctors. Typically, doctors use a speculum to access the cervix. But you can check your cervix easily by yourself at home with your fingers. Though the cervix is pretty deep inside your body, you can still feel it using your fingertips to find the changes.
At times, you may not feel or locate your cervix. This could be for several reasons, though none of them are cause for concern. It could be because you have a long vaginal canal or you may be ovulating or you have already ovulated. Before we get into how to check cervical changes, let’s see what are the changes you should look for.
You can spot the changes in the cervix during the follicular phase, ovulation, luteal phase, menstruation, intercourse, conception, early pregnancy, and after pregnancy. There are four changes you can feel —position, texture or tissue softness, cervical discharge, and cervical opening. These changes can happen even during sexual intercourse, which is why it is not recommended to do a pregnancy test right after having sex.
Once you get comfortable enough, check for these changes in your cervix:
Cervix usually stays at positions: high and low, both of which indicate different times of your cycle(1) or hormonal changes. Knowing the position of the cervix will be helpful for someone who uses a menstrual cup to know which cup will suit your anatomy and whether you should trim the stem on the cup or not.
As you approach ovulation, when your ovaries release an egg, your cervix moves up and high to prepare for conception. It may even be so high that you cannot reach it with your fingers. This is the optimal time for you to have sexual intercourse. When there is no sign of conception, it drops down to the period position to allow menstrual tissue to pass through the vagina. But if you have conceived, the cervix will remain higher in the vagina, similar to the position during ovulation.
You can know the normal position of your cervix with the help of the knuckle rule. When you slide your finger inside and if you feel your cervix between your 2nd and 3rd knuckle, or barely reach, you have a high cervix. If you feel your cervix at your 2nd knuckle —middle of your finger— you have a medium cervix. On the other hand, if your finger cannot go past the first bend, you have a low cervix or very short vaginal canal.
Does your cervix feel firm or soft? When it comes to the smoothness of the cervix, it would be similar to the tissues lining your cheek to the touch. If gently pressed, the consistency would be as soft as your lips or as firm as the tip of the nose.
When you approach ovulation and when you are fertile, it could be soft as your lips because estrogen(2) softens the cervical tissue. It could get as soft as your vaginal walls and also moist. When it goes so high that it blends in with the vaginal walls, it is because the cervix has become super soft. Meaning, the ideal time to have sexual intercourse.
If you conceive, your cervix will be soft at the beginning and gradually become firm due to the increased supply of blood. The texture of the cervix changes in early pregnancy due to increased blood flow.
On the other hand, when you have not conceived, it could be firm to touch as the tip of your nose. Should the cervix be hard before the period? Yes, it becomes firm like an unripened fruit. Your cervix will remain firm after your menstrual period until ovulation.
Cervical discharge or mucus is an important part of your reproductive system. Because when you are ovulating, cervical discharge provides sperm an easier passage into the uterus, contains nourishment for sperm, and maintains a healthier pH for their survival.
Also known as vaginal discharge or cervical fluid, cervical discharge also keeps your vagina clean. The same hormones that affect other changes also affect the cervical discharge. It changes when you approach your ovulation and some women use its consistency to track their menstrual period as well as pregnancy.
When you are not ovulating, the consistency of the discharge will be thicker and stickier. This is to protect your insides from foreign organisms, just like how nasal mucus protects the respiratory tract. Well before ovulation, the discharge becomes sticky and appears white or yellow. But on the preceding days to ovulation, the discharge will increase and become opaque and creamy.
At ovulation, the discharge will resemble egg white and will be stretchy. After ovulation, if you do conceive, you may notice discharge increasing —clear, thick, and sticky— instead of drying. This is because of the increased production of glandular cells that help form the mucus plug to protect your uterus and your baby from infection. If you aren’t conceived, the discharge will begin to dry and thicken. While the cervical mucus before the period will be white, it will reduce immediately after a period and the vaginal dryness may last for three to four days.
Imagine your cervix as a soft, small ball about 3 centimeters. In the center of it, there is a small indentation —called the external os, which can vary from woman to woman. Shaped like a horizontal dimple, it may have a slight opening or it will be completely closed. You can feel around your ectocervix (the external portion of the cervix), which protrudes out into the top of your vagina, to find the external os.
Just before ovulation, the cervix will be slightly open (no more than a thin slit). It will open just before as well as during menstruation to allow the blood to flow out. After the menstrual period, it remains closed. Immediately after ovulation (or several hours and even several days), the opening will be closed.
Even when pregnancy(3) occurs, the opening will remain closed until the third trimester. During childbirth, the cervix shortens, effaces, and dilates from being tightly shut to 10 centimeters wide and completely thinned or effaced.
Tips For Checking Your Cervix
If you expect to become a pro in the second (or tenth time) and stop it altogether once you fail, it’d be a disappointment. You have to practice being patient enough to understand what you are feeling first. Become familiar with your own cervix and where it sits to make the next try easier.
- When you are checking for the first time, expect to fail to locate the cervix.
- Try to check the cervical position every other day, even when you are not ovulating. It is easier to locate the cervix when you are not ovulating anyway.
- Also, check the position at the same time of the day. Not once in the shower and before bed the next day.
- It is best to check it right after the shower when your fingers are clean to avoid infection. Also, you will be more relaxed after a shower.
- Remember to not check the position during or after sex. Because the cervix actually moves around depending on the level of sexual arousal.
- To detect pregnancy, check daily throughout your cycle. It may be difficult at the beginning, so keep a journal to monitor the differences. This way, you can gauge your cervical changes after a month of checking.
- If you have yeast, or vaginal infection, or UTI, don’t insert your finger inside. You can try buying a self-exam kit with a reusable speculum, flashlight, mirror, and additional instructions.
- Don’t do the test if you are pregnant and your water just broke.
How To Check Cervix At Home
All of our anatomies are different from each other. But everyone can locate the position of the cervix by slipping the finger (preferably middle finger, but you do you!) inside the vagina and see how far your finger goes inside. If you monitor the position of the cervix over a couple of menstrual cycles in a journal, you will know when the cervix is in a high or low position.
Because you have to know the baseline and how it normally feels to get an accurate result from the checking. Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to check your cervix. Follow them and you can understand the difference. If you are scared, remember that you won’t hurt yourself.
- Empty. Empty your bladder before you start the checking. A full bladder keeps the cervix elevated, making it difficult to locate and feel.
- Clean. Wash your hands clean thoroughly with warm water and antibacterial soap. If you skip this important step, you will push bacteria from your fingers or even the vaginal canal inside your body. You have to make sure that your hands and fingernails are clean and dry before you insert them inside the most sensitive part of your body. Also, cutting your nails short is a good idea to avoid accidental internal injury.
- Position. Get comfy and position yourself for easy and comfortable access to your cervix. This could be while standing with one foot elevated on the toilet seat or a stepstool or squatting. Regardless of any position you choose, remember to relax your vaginal muscles.
- Mirror. If you are a first-time checker, place a mirror underneath your pelvis to actually see your cervix. If you separate your labia, you can see it clearly.
- Lubricate. Although optional, if you lubricate your finger, you can slide your finger inside without friction or discomfort.
- Insert. Once you are comfortable, slide your middle or index finger (or both!) on your dominant hand into your vagina. You may have to go in a few inches to locate the cervix. You can definitely feel the difference in how your skin changes texture as you move closer toward your cervix. If you are not close to ovulating, you can easily locate the cervix.
- Cervix Position. Depending on how far your finger goes inside, you can vaguely understand the position of the cervix. It could be in a low position and you might still think it’s high. Or it could actually be high and you mistake it for low because you naturally have a short cervix. You cannot be sure of its normal position unless you try many times.
- Texture. Now, you can feel your cervix to know its texture. Is it soft? Or is it firm? Since it can change based on where you are in your menstrual cycle, you have to feel the middle of your cervix for the opening. This also can indicate where you are in your cycle and what to expect.
- Record. Take note of your observations on cervical changes: your cervix will be high when you are ovulating or pregnant and low when your flow is about to start (menstrual period). The soft texture is when you are fertile and ovulating, and firm texture is when you are not or when you are pregnant.
By doing this test, you will know when to have sexual intercourse —one or two days before ovulation. But if you feel your cervix in its high position, you may be too late this month. But can you rely on checking your cervix to be sure of pregnancy? Absolutely not. Since your cervix starts to change texture and position immediately after conception, checking your cervix is a good option to start with. But that alone doesn’t make the pregnancy definite.
You don’t have to be disappointed if your cervix is still in the menstrual position. Because it could be too early to check and you can get a positive pregnancy result before the cervix moves into the pregnancy position (high). Everyone’s bodies work in their own unique way. If you want to be sure, always use a pregnancy test or visit a gynecologist to take a blood test. If you think you are pregnant, take good care of yourself and book an appointment.
When To See A Doctor
If you check your cervix regularly and find any of the following, get medical attention immediately:
- Cysts, polyps, or other lumps.
- Noticeable changes: blue, red, or black lesions on your cervix.
- Cervical discharge that is green, bloody, or foul-smelling.
- Vaginal itching or pain.
Now you know what all changes your cervix goes through. To know the difference yourself, be gentle and patient enough to learn by checking it yourself. There is nothing wrong with being curious and wanting to learn about your own body. You can allow your partner to assist you in the test. Do not rush to go beyond what you are comfortable with.
- Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia. (2020). Menstrual Cycle. (Online). Available at https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/menstrual-cycle
- Arizona Board of Regents, The Embryo Project at Arizona State University. (2019). Estrogen and the Menstrual Cycle in Humans. (Online). Available at https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/estrogen-and-menstrual-cycle-humans
- Tommy’s. (2020). Discharge In Pregnancy. (Online). Available at https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/pregnancy-symptom-checker/discharge-pregnancy