Whether you’re trying to expand your family or avoid pregnancy, checking the characteristics of your cervix provides useful clues about your fertility. Here we outline what you need to know about this vital organ, including what your cervix can (and can’t) tell you about fertility.
What should I know about my cervix?
Your cervix is a channel-like organ that sits at the base of your uterus. Part of it protrudes into your vagina and resembles a donut with a small opening called an os (1).
Your cervix carries out crucial roles in protecting your uterus from pathogens and in achieving and maintaining pregnancy (5). It’s lined with glands that secrete cervical mucus (CM), which is generally thick and impenetrable to sperm until just before ovulation (1). Then, as estrogen rises prior to ovulation, your cervix and CM change to help sperm reach the egg. (If you’re tracking, you may already know all about CM. If you want to learn more, start here.)
How does my cervix change?
Detectable changes occur in your cervix throughout your cycle. Its position moves and the firmness and openness of your cervix changes; these 3 characteristics together are referred to as cervical position. Early in your cycle, the cervix sits lower in your vagina and typically feels firm, like the tip of your nose; the os, is closed (2).
As you approach ovulation, the cervix becomes soft, like your lips. The os opens to allow sperm to pass through, and the position of the cervix rises higher in your vagina as estrogen levels increase (2).
How can I check my cervical position?
Find somewhere quiet and private, like your bathroom. Wash your hands thoroughly and then choose which position you’d like to use consistently to check your cervix. Squatting is the most efficient position because the cervix is pushed closer to the vaginal opening (6), but you could also stand with one foot on your toilet or lie down. Be sure to use the same position to check each time since different body positions change the cervical height (6). Also try to check your cervix around the same time each day for consistency, preferably not in the morning since it may be temporarily higher than normal, and definitely not after a bowel movement to prevent introducing bacteria into the vagina (6).
Insert your pointer or middle finger into your vagina and touch your cervix. Compared to the smooth walls of your vagina, the cervix feels like a nub. Touch the middle to see if you can feel the os.
As you explore this new terrain, note:
How much of your finger is in your vagina? This tells you how high or low your cervix is in your vagina. If it’s helpful, you can use your knuckles as a measurement.
How does your cervix feel? Firm, soft, or somewhere in between?
How does your os feel? Wide open, slightly open, or squeezed shut?
If you circle your finger around your cervix, does it seem straight or angled? The position straightens closer to ovulation as estrogen levels rise (2).
Gathering this information may feel a bit overwhelming at first, and you may not be exactly sure what you’re feeling. That’s natural. Give yourself several cycles to become acquainted with your cervical changes. Starting to check your cervix may be easier during the luteal phase so the cervix is in its least fertile position and easier to reach. This way, the changes in firmness and openness towards ovulation may be easier to detect (6). Note that near ovulation, your cervix may be so high that you might not even be able to reach it — don’t be alarmed! Just mark that the position was high (leave firmness and openness blank), and try again the next day.
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It’s worth noting here that each woman’s cycle, and cervical position, is uniquely her own. If you’re comparing notes, whether in the Kindara community or from educational content, your experience and observations may be different from each other or examples — and that’s to be expected.
If you’ve given birth vaginally, your cervix may feel softer throughout your cycle (3) and may not fully close, even during infertile points of your cycle (6). If your uterus tips away from your bladder (a condition called retroverted uterus), your cervical position may still be low even when nearing ovulation, rather than high (3).
What if I’m unsure of my cervical position?
It’s completely normal to feel unsure sometimes. In fact, when a research team collected information from 98,903 women who were tracking their cervical position and other fertility cues, they found that nearly 60% of respondents weren’t sure about the feel of their cervix, its openness, or position in the days leading to ovulation (4).
That said, what the women did describe confirms what we’ve talked about here: their cervices felt high, soft, and open in the days before ovulation (4).
Just like learning any new skill, understanding cervical position takes some time. Be consistent with your technique and check each day around the same time. Especially for the first few cycles of tracking cervical position, you may find it helpful to focus on observing how your cervix feels compared to how it felt yesterday. In other words, rather than deciding if it feels soft or firm, high or low, open or closed today, consider if it feels softer or firmer, higher or lower, and more open or more closed today than it did yesterday.
Can I rely solely on my cervical position to know if I’m fertile?
Please don’t. Relying on one method may lead you to miss your critical window of fertility. One handy analogy is to think of Fertility Awareness-based Methods as a three-legged stool — cervical position tracking is just a single leg. For the highest accuracy, track your basal body temperature and CM daily too. When you’re tracking other fertility signs, you can look at the whole picture of your chart and see if your cervical position observations line up with what you’d expect based on where you are in your cycle and with the other signs you are tracking.