Cervical examination is one of the most powerful tools you can have
With a speculum you can observe your own cervix and the natural changes that occur over time. Self examination enables you to see a vital part of your anatomy and monitor changes, secretions, menstrual cycle, and indicators of fertile time. You can also identify yeast imbalance, a common vaginal condition.
What's so important about your Cervix?
The cervix is the opening to the uterus. Through the cervix flows menstrual blood, our babies are born and terminations performed. By creating a barrier over the cervix pregnancy can be prevented to keep sperm out. When you ovulate your cervical mucous changes its consitency. Cervical mucous can be dry, sticky, creamy, or egg white consistency. By monitoring cervical mucous you can check your fertility signs, cervical mucous increases during ovulation and has the appearance of egg white. With the aid of a speculum, viewing your cervix can be easy. Self cervical exam is not a replacement for a smear performed by a health professional. A smear is a sample from the outside of the cervix (or neck of the womb) that allows detection of pre-cancerous abnormalities to be treated before cancer develops. Sometimes smears can be abnormal when no abnormality exists. In extremely rare cases smears may detect an abnormality in the presence of a cancer of the cervix. Smears may also be called 'cervical samples' as they are not smeared on slides any more but collected in fluid filled bottles.
How to self exam with your vaginal speculum
Self examination is easy, all you will need is a hand-held mirror, light or torch, and speculum; you may want a water based lubricant to make insertion of the speculum easier. Familiarise yourself with your speculum, practice opening and closing the speculum; and make sure you understand how to lock it open, as well as how to unlock and close the bills. Then sit comfortably; leaning back with your legs open, knees up, on a bed or couch with pillows behind you.
Put some KY jelly or water onto the insertable bills of the speculum. Breath in, as you exhale, let your muscles relax. To insert the speculum, hold it in one hand, handles up, bills together. Using your other hand, spread the labia (vaginal lips) and insert the bills of the speculum
When you have inserted it as far as it will comfortably go, open the bills using the mechanism on the handles that you practiced with earlier. You will feel the speculum stretch your vagina open. Lock the speculum into place, then you can release your grip on the handle and start your self examination. Hold the light and mirror. Shine the beam of the light into the mirror so it reflects into the vagina lighting up the internal space. Or shine the flashlight directly inside. Adjust the mirror and light so you can see inside.
At the back of your vagina is your cervix. It looks like a small donut with a very small opening in the center.
When you are finished, unlock and close the speculum. Then slowly and gently pull the speculum out. You may smell the speculum to become familiar with your natural smell of secretions and examine the mucus picked up on the speculum. An acidic smell is not unusual. A yeasty or fishy odour may indicate an infection.
What You See When You Examine The Cervix
The cervix appears as a rounded or flattened knob, the hole or opening in the center is called the cervical os. If you cannot see your cervix, unlock the speculum, change the direction the bills are pointed, and then reopen it. It may help to sit on a firmer surface, like the floor. If after a few tries you are unable to find your cervix, wait a few days and try again. The cervix moves up and down during the menstrual cycle and some times it is lower than others, so it may be easier to see in a few days.
Your cervix may be pink and smooth or it might have reddish blemishes. It can also be uneven, rough or splotchy. All of these are normal. There may be mucus covering the cervix or coming out of the os. Mucus is natural. The character of the mucus changes throughout the menstrual cycle in response to hormones. It ranges from pasty-white (non-fertile) to clear and stretchy egg-white texture (fertile). It does not have a strong odour. The cervix may have fluid-filled sacs on it that look like blisters. These are called Nabothian cysts and are not a problem. They are caused by a blockage in the mucus-producing glands of the cervix. In some women they come and go, and others have them for years. They do not need treatment. You may see polyps, outgrowths of tissue that dangle on a stalk and protrude through the os. They may bleed easily but do not need to be removed unless they bother you.
Cervical bluing may be the first sign that a woman is pregnant, 50% of women who are pregnant will have a blue or purplish coloured cervix due to an increase in blood circulation. During pregnancy, the cervix may also look puffy and softer and the os more open.
What's Not Normal?
It is normal to have vaginal and cervical discharge. However, if any of the following are found during self exam, it may indicate an infection.
Green, gray or dark yellow discharge Any significant change in the amount or consistency of discharge Any strong odour unusual for you.
A health professional can take a sampling of cells and send them to a lab for tests. You may choose to seek care from a clinician if you suspect an infection. Some infections, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, can cause serious complications if left untreated. Other conditions may be easily addressed with natural remedies.
When you have a Pap test or smear, the clinician removes a few cells from the cervical os Sometimes smears can be abnormal when no abnormality exists. In extremely rare cases smears may detect an abnormality in the presence of a cancer of the cervix. Smears may also be called 'cervical samples' as they are not smeared on slides any more but collected in fluid filled bottles. This self examination is not a replacement for a smear conducted by your healthcare professional.
With the exception of visible sores caused by the herpes virus, most sexually transmitted diseases cannot be seen during self-exam. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis - all these STD's need to be tested by a clinician and require prescription medication. Recognising what is normal for you is the primary reason for performing self exam. By knowing what is normal, you can tell what is unusual for you.
A "yeast infection" is an overgrowth of natural vaginal yeast. It can cause a white, cottage cheese-like discharge and usually causes uncomfortable itching. There are many ways to curb yeast overgrowth, including garlic vaginal suppositories, yogurt douches, herbal or natural treatments. Our Biofem Instant Active Gel is proven to help stop Thrush infections and stop more recurring.
Pregnancy and Cervical Exam
When a woman is pregnant, the cervix appears bluish or purplish instead of the usual pink.
So, why self exam? To claim our bodies for ourselves.
Some women do a self examination every week, some once a month, some only occasionally. Self examination can be a transformative experience, every woman should know how her body looks - not just leave this sacred space to healthcare professionals! Self examination can be more than simply knowing the appearance of your cervix. It can be a tool for self-discovery and empowerment. To know what was once unknown, to shed light on what was once hidden, and to have a sense of ownership and ability to care for our bodies can change our lives. It's about helping ourselves to health.