(How Much Do You Really Know About Your Cervix? (Warning: Graphic Pics

Beyond your yearly pop, we’d wager a guess that you don’t think much about your cervix. (And even then, you’re probz more preoccupied with your legs being in those metal stirrups, right?)

But this area of tissue plays a huge role in reproductive and sexual health, says Natasha Johnson, M.D., a gynecologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. It may be little (it usually measures about an inch), but the cervix connects your vagina to the lower part of your uterus, which means all day, every day it’s helping to keep everything flowing down there.

Here’s what you need to know about this vital lady part:

1. It’s Sometimes Called the Neck
Cervix is also the Latin word for neck, says Johnson. And it kind of resembles one, too (check it out below). “If you think of the uterus as the ‘head,’ the cervix is the neck,” she says.


2. It’s a Mucus-Producing Monster
Your nose isn’t your only body part churning out slime. With lots of mucus glands, the cervix produces plenty of goo, too. “The cervix produces a ton of mucus, and that mucus changes throughout a woman’s cycle,” says Johnson. This proves important for fertility. During ovulation—when we’re at our most fertile—the mucus looks more watery, she says, which helps sperm pass more easily through the cervical canal.

Alternatively, this mucus also acts as a barrier. Some hormonal contraception, for example, will thicken your down-there mucus to prevent pregnancy. And during pregnancy, a “mucus plug” will form, preventing fluid from leaking and bacteria from going up from the vagina to the uterus.




The cervix of a 26-year-old woman on the 24th day of her cycle



3. It’s Super Vulnerable to Infection and Disease

Your cervix can be both the site of infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea, as well as pre-cancerous or cancerous cells, says Johnson. In part, that’s because it’s home to an area called the squamocolumnar junction, a region that undergoes rapid cell turnover. Here, one type of cell (squamous) is replaced by another (columnar epithelium, common in the uterus).

“That’s where HPV gets in,” says Johnson. “And because that area is vulnerable, HPV can incorporate its genes into the cervix, which can lead to pre-cancer or cancer.” That’s why it’s so important to stay up to date with your paps and make sure to get tested for STDs. When left untreated, STDs can travel up into the uterus, causing pelvic inflammatory disease, says Johnson.




A cervical polyp


4. It Doesn’t Do Much for Sexual Pleasure
“There’s a myth that the cervix is critical to sexual pleasure and orgasm,” says Johnson. “But that really hasn’t been shown.” In fact, Johnson says that when women have their cervix removed, there’s often no change in sexual function and pleasure. One small study of 413 women published in BMJ even found an increase in sexual pleasure after a total hysterectomy (which removes the uterus and cervix). “It is a critical structure, but as far as sexual pleasure goes, that has more to do with the clitoris,” she says.


The cervix of a 23-year-old woman pregnant with her third child


5. But It’s a Huge Player in Childbirth

One huge job the cervix has: to dilate to about 10 centimeters on delivery day so that a baby can successfully pass from the uterus. “If it’s healthy, it softens and gently dilates during labor,” says Johnson. Oh, and you can blame intense contractions on that dilation and the uterus itself contracting, she says. Thanks a lot, cervix.



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