4 Ways to Keep Your Cervix Healthy
As we’ve just rounded the corner into the New Year, we want to challenge you with a different health goal. Instead of aiming to eat healthier or go to bed earlier, we encourage you to take charge of your cervical health. If you’ve never heard of cervical health, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know, from where your cervix is, to the cervix position during ovulation, to what does cervical mucus look like (yup, it's a thing).
What exactly is a cervix? And what does a cervix do?
The cervix is the lower, narrow part of your uterus. It is a passage or tube about 3 to 4 cm long that connects the vagina to the uterus.
Even though your cervix is a small part of your body, it has many functions! Its opening expands slightly to let discharge, menstrual blood, and sperm through. But the opening is very small—your cervix is actually what keeps tampons and other objects from getting lost in your body. If you're wondering about the cervix position during ovulation, you might be surprised to learn this: during ovulation, the cervix actually rises to a higher position in the vagina. Then, during menstruation, the cervix will be lower in the vagina. Fascinating, right?
Since your cervix is responsible for creating discharge, you can thank yours for keeping your vagina clean. What does cervical mucus look like? It's generally odorless, and it can look sticky, creamy, pasty, watery, stretchy or slippery. The cervix also helps facilitate pregnancy by keeping out bacteria to prevent infections.
Long story short, your cervix is amazing and essential to your reproductive and sexual health! That’s why we’re celebrating Cervical Health Awareness Month this month.
What is the significance of Cervical Health Awareness Month?
Not just for setting goals, January is also Cervical Health Awareness month—a chance to educate ourselves and others about cervical cancer and HPV (human papillomavirus), an infection that can cause cervical cancer. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, more than 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer every year. The reason Cervical Health Awareness Month is so important is because the disease can be preventable with vaccination and regular screening.
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What causes cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is most often caused by HPV, which is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. Most HPV infections often go away by themselves within two years, but it can last longer and cause cancers in men and women. However, there is a vaccine that can protect you against the types of HPV that often cause cervical cancer.
While HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer, there are some additional risk factors for cervical cancer. In addition to the usual signs of cervical cancer (like changes in menstrual bleeding and pain during intercourse), knowing what your cervical mucus looks like can help you identify warning signs. Your discharge may be smelly and pink, brown, or red in color if you have cervical cancer. As always, talk to your doctor first about any concerns with your cervical health.
How can I maintain my cervical health?
Now that you know what can cause cervical cancer and how the cervix is positioned during ovulation, let’s dive into what you really need to know—how to maintain your cervical health. Here are some things you can do:
1. Consider getting the HPV vaccine
This vaccine can help prevent infection from high-risk HPVs that cause cervical cancers. The CDC recommends that all children (boys and girls) get the vaccine at age 11 or 12. If you are an adult between the ages of 27 and 45, it is recommended to talk to your primary care doctor about whether the HPV vaccination is right for you.
2. Go in for routine Pap tests.
A Pap test, aka pap smear, allows doctors to screen you for any changes and precancerous conditions of your cervix. Many medical organizations suggest getting routine Pap tests at the age of 21 but talk to your primary care doctor about what makes the most sense for you.
3. Get routine HPV tests.
Like a Pap test, an HPV test is a screening tool to see if you are at risk for cervical cancer. Even if you’ve had the HPV vaccine it’s still recommended to get tested for HPV.
4. Practice safe sex.
You can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by preventing sexually transmitted infections, such as HPV. This can be done by using an internal or external condom, limiting your number of sexual partners, and routinely testing for STIs.
So, the good news is by taking the appropriate steps to stay healthy, you can significantly reduce your risk of cervical cancer.
This Cervical Health Awareness month we encourage you to protect yourself and your loved ones! Take the necessary steps to maintain your cervical health during ovulation and beyond, and make a difference by spreading your knowledge with friends and family. For more reproductive health information follow us on Instagram or read more on our blog.
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