You may never, in your entire life, see your own cervix. Yes, you can see it on a monitor perhaps during an examination, but usually it remains hidden to you. It isn’t hard to see your own cervix if you are interested (and you should take a look – you can actually check out your own cervix for changes if you want to).
But what is a doctor or gynaecologist looking for when they examine you? It can really pay to be informed so when you are getting your next pap test, you can ask questions – it’s interesting stuff!
What could possibly go wrong?
Cellular abnormalities of the cervix include:
- Cervical ectropion (cervical erosion)
- Nabothian cysts
- Cervical polyps
- Cervicitis (cervical inflammation)
- Abnormal or precancerous cells (HPV)
- Maternal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES, a synthetic oestrogen)
Other abnormalities might include anatomical abnormalities, which are not covered in this article.
Looking at the cervix – circumstances whereby your cervix might be hard to see:
- If you have a retroverted uterus which causes your uterus to be displaced
- In post-menopause
- In women who are nulliparous, which means she has never had a baby, though this official and somewhat antiquated word isn’t clear if this just means never been pregnant, never carried a baby to term, never given birth to a live baby, or never given birth vaginally – take your pick)
- After vaginal surgery
- If your bladder is full
- During constipation
- Uterine enlargement
- With a pelvic mass or growth
- Amongst scarring
- Obesity or even just a high BMI
What to look for
- Blue, black or red lesions, combined with discharge, painful periods, pelvic pain or deep pain on penetration (could indicate endometriosis or adenomyosis)
- ‘Strawberry cervix’ associated with cervicitis – could be caused by a sexually transmitted infection, may be asymptomatic or come with discharge or bleeding after sex
- Bleeding after sex, from the genitals or the cervix – can be caused by some cancers, cervical ectropion and other issues and must be checked
- Abnormal lesions on vagina or cervix, vaginal adenosis, cockscomb cervix or a cervical collar hood may appear in daughters of women given DES in the 70s