If you are a woman, your cervix is that unique donut-shaped canal linking your uterus to your vagina. It is approximately 4 cm long and when you are ready for childbirth, will open to 10 cm, allowing your baby safe passage into the world. As you can imagine, your cervix’s healthy function is crucial to fertility and childbirth.
Located at the bottom of the uterus, your cervix enables fluids to flow into and out of your uterus. It creates clear cervical mucus during your menstrual cycle so sperm can make its way from your vagina into your uterus and for your menstrual blood to leave your uterus. Unfortunately, it is also potentially susceptible to HPV infection, a condition that leads to cervical cancer. This is why HPV vaccinations and getting those routine Pap smears help protect your cervix from disease and promote better health.
When you are in your menstrual cycle, your cervix will open just enough so the blood can pass from the uterus out through the vagina. When you are pregnant, your cervical mucus becomes thick and makes a “plug” that protects your developing embryo from infection. This plug thins during labor as the cervix softens and effaces (becomes shorter) for childbirth.
As with any part of the body, the cervix is also vulnerable to undesirable conditions and diseases:
Cervical cancer: A high number of cervical cancers arise because of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which is transmitted sexually, referred to as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Ideally, vaccination is encouraged for children ages 11 to 12 but you may still be vaccinated up to age 45.
Cervicitis: Your cervix may be inflamed from a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia, gonorrhea, or herpes.
Cervical dysplasia: Abnormal cervical cells can lead to cervical cancer. Called cervical dysplasia, your annual Pap smear can often detect this condition.
Cervical polyps: These painless, typically harmless tiny growths appear on the ectocervix (the area of the cervix that extends into the vagina) but can lead to vaginal bleeding.
Cervical insufficiency: Referred to as an incompetent cervix this condition happens when your cervix is not strong enough to carry a pregnancy and possibly end in miscarriage.
The production of cervical mucus is essential to transport sperm from the vagina to the uterine cavity, but certain conditions can cause the mucus to become a hostile environment for sperm. Vaginal pH, inflammatory disorders and immunological conditions that may alter the cervical environment are all things to consider in reproductive medicine.
Monitoring Cervical Health
Getting regular Pap smears truly help find problems early on when treatment can make the most difference, especially for women who are trying to conceive. In the early stages of cervical cancer, there are typically no discernible symptoms, which is why Pap smears are so essential.
It’s a good idea to be checked if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Abnormal bleeding
- Increased urinary frequency
- Pain during urination
- Pain during sex
- Pelvic pain unrelated to your menstrual cycle
- Unusual or heavy vaginal discharge
At Utah Fertility Center, our dedicated team strives to offer you accurate and informative diagnostic and treatment services. We can determine the cause of your infertility and provide treatment options to help. You can learn more about the diagnostic process, the female reproductive system and female diagnostic testing.
Our team of infertility specialists at Utah Fertility Center is committed to providing accurate and informative diagnostic and treatment services for women who are trying to conceive. From understanding the cause of your infertility to determining your available treatment options, you will receive the support you need while being involved throughout the diagnostic process. If you would like to learn more about infertility in Pleasant Grove, Murray, Ogden, Park City and St. George, Utah, please give us a call at 801-785-5100 to book your reservation with one of our board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologists. Let 2023 be the year you get the reproductive assistance you need!