Identifying early changes to your cervix may just save your life. Self-examination isn’t a replacement for a proper examination and pap test, but works as an adjunct. You will need half an hour, a speculum, torch, mirror and some lubricant.
Here’s how to check out your own cervix:
Wash and dry your hands.
Sit comfortably with your knees bent and your feet wide – this could be a chair, floor or couch.
The speculum has two bills and a handle (familiarise yourself with how to lock and unlock it before you start). Use the lever to open the beaks until it clicks to lock.
Lube up the speculum and your vulva and vagina.
Close the beaks and hold with the handle facing up, then slide it in as comfortably as it will go without hurting yourself or becoming uncomfortable. Sideways sometimes works better. Try until it slides in comfortably. Understand what angle your vagina is on – it aims towards your tailbone/lower back, not straight up.
Squeeze the lever towards the handle to widen the beaks.
Relax, take a few deep breaths, and work the speculum carefully while looking in the mirror.
Step 8 – what am I looking for?
You will see the vaginal wall and its folds. These are called rugae, and as you age, they tend to iron out and become paler pink. The cervix looks round and smaller than you would think by looking at the photos – it is shaped like a doughnut, but it is not the size of a doughnut. It is more like a coin. If you can’t see it, move the speculum around a bit or take it out completely and start again. Angle is everything. Careful opening and closing the speculum.
Once you have found your cervical prize, lock open the speculum beaks and have a look around. You will likely see fluids coming out of your cervix, which may be displaying any of the normal variations listed above.
Once you’re done, unlock the speculum and gently remove it with open or closed beaks. Wash it well then dry it and put it away.
Tips for checking out your own cervix
- You may want to check out the Beautiful Cervix Project – there are some weird and wonderful photos of cervices in every part of the woman’s cycle that might help you to understand what you are seeing without having to read a manual.
- Funnel the torchlight if you can, making it stronger in a single beam, rather than diffusing.
- Get someone to help you – a lover or (very) good friend perhaps.
- If you can’t see your cervix, try again another day – sometimes it is very high and hard to see, depending on where you’re at in your cycle.
- If you see something that worries you, go and see your physician to be examined – don’t self-diagnose.