The cervix—we’ve all heard about it at some stage but chances are you don’t really think about it much. Other parts of the female anatomy like the vagina get much more attention. Even if you know a lot about the cervix, you probably don’t know what it looks like outside of textbook diagrams. Until now, that is.
Taking pictures of your own cervix isn’t as hard as it sounds.
O’Nell Starkey had an interesting task when she was in midwifery school: she had to monitor her cervix every day for changes. To make it easier, she decided to take photographs of her cervix. Sounds complicated but it’s actually pretty doable.
How she checked out her cervix.
She used a speculum, a medical tool often used by doctors and gynecologists. But the trick is that she inserted the speculum upside down so she could reach its handle through her legs. Then, she asked her partner to take photographs of her cervix every day. (Awkward.) Amazingly, Starkey then decided to put the photos online.
She had no idea they’d become so popular!
Before she knew it, people other than midwives were interested in the cervix pictures. Now, seven years later, she’s got a gallery on her website, The Beautiful Cervix Project, where women send in pictures of their own cervixes. She’s had a million visitors!
You can study your cervix in an easier way.
It might not be easy to get your hands on a speculum and conduct a cervical self-exam in the way Starkey did, but no worries—if you’re interested in taking pictures of your cervix, you can buy a cervix exam kit from her website. It includes a mirror, flashlight, instruction sheet, and lubricating jelly packets!
Cervixes come in all shapes and sizes!
Women have submitted pictures of their cervixes to The Beautiful Cervix Project showing what they look like after childbirth, during a Pap smear, and after menopause, to mention just a few. It’s fascinating to see how different the cervix can look at different times and in different pictures, but be warned: if you’re the squeamish type, you might not enjoy viewing the cervix gallery, and that’s okay.
There’s loads of other info on the site.
The Beautiful Cervix Project website isn’t just about cervix pictures. It also offers loads of information about the cervix and menstrual cycles, so it’s a great way to learn more about female anatomy. It’s about time we had more information about our bodies, and not just when it comes to sexual health.
The beautiful cervix project is putting the cervix on our minds.
As Starkey told SELF in an interview, “Many women do not even think about their cervix or reproductive health until they get an abnormal Pap smear or they are pregnant and learn about cervical dilation during labor. While some sex education teaches about menstruation, rarely are the days between periods discussed and women are left clueless about how to care for, interpret, and advocate for their own vaginal and cervical health.” Yes, it’s time to become BFFs with our bodies.
Many women don’t know anything about the cervix.
Starkey’s so right, as this UK study by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has found: almost half of women don’t know what the cervix is, while one in six can’t name a function of the cervix! Ugh.
What the cervix does, FYI.
Even if you think the cervix looks gross in pictures, that doesn’t matter. The point is to become aware of it and what it does – the cervix truly is amazing! It connects the vagina to the uterus, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When you fall pregnant, a mucus plug seals and closes the cervix so that a baby remains inside the womb. Towards the end of pregnancy, the cervix is said to “ripen.” What this means is that it undergoes changes because of hormones known as prostaglandins, which enable the cervix to respond to contractions during labor, as well as hold tight against their pressure.
The cervix continues to be amazing during labor.
When a woman goes into labor, the cervix becomes thinner and separates into a doughnut shape to allow the baby to pass through it. Unreal!
The beautiful cervix project is about ending body shame.
As Starkey told SELF, “In general, our patriarchal culture and the media frequently misunderstand or overtly shame women about their bodies and vaginas. Messages and advertising target our insecurities and fears about our own bodies: We are taught our vaginas need to be perfumed, douched, bleached, surgically made smaller, are incapable of birthing, etc. I hope the Beautiful Cervix Project gives a visual voice to the normalcy, variations, power, and beauty of our bodies. It’s time to end the shame we feel about ourselves.” Right on!
Why you should be doing cervical self-exams.
You might not want to take pictures of your cervix, and that’s cool. But don’t underestimate the importance of regular cervical self-exams. The reason why is basically the same as why you should do breast exams monthly: by knowing what’s normal for your body, you can stay on top of any strange changes that possibly signal a health problem. Although you should always stick to your yearly Pap smears, it’s empowering to know that you can take your cervical health into your own hands any time you want – literally.
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