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How many women have actually looked at their own cervix? When I first heard of this, I thought it sounded silly and pointless. But having done it dozens of times now, I can say that it's downright fun, interesting, and empowering. I mean, really, I think it's just neat to look at this organ that is the gateway to my womb. I think any man who knows a woman willing to give him a look would be wise to do it too. For men who have intercourse with women, they might like to see what that thing that they're always bumping up against looks like. Or maybe they'd just be interested in seeing. Cervical self-examination allows you to see the various shapes,secretions, and positions that the cervix has throughout the menstrual cycle. You can likely see when you are unmistakably ovulating, although I'm not going to advocate this alone as a form of fertility awareness. Or you can understand why the position of your cervix makes penetration during sex feel better or worse depending on where you are in your cycle.

To do a self-examination, you will need a plastic speculum, a flashlight, and a hand mirror, and maybe some lubricating jelly. Plastic speculums are availible through a women's health or family planning clinic such as Planned Parenthood. Just go in and ask for one. They come in three sizes, but most women do well with the medium. I got mine from a midwife at an herbal conference. Lie back, spread your legs, and if you're feeling dry, put a little lube around your vaginal opening, but not much because you want to see your natural secretions, not the lube. With the speculum closed, insert it. You can insert it with the handle facing to your side if you find that easier, but once it's in, make sure it's pointing upwards before opening it. Now, slowly open it and lock it into place by pushing slightly up on the bottom handle and down on the top one. Now hold your mirror in place and shine your light. If you don't see your cervix--a circle with a little hole in the middle, you either have a high cervix, which is common around ovulation,or a long vagina. Try again until it shows up, or you may need another size. It's tricky the first few times but you'll quickly get the hang of it.

Now, take a look. If your cervical opening (os), looks to be close to 1 cm in diameter and is gushing with an eggwhite-like substance, you're ovulating. If you've had a baby by vaginal birth, the opening is more of a slant shape. A bloody cervix is also neat to look at. If it's secreting lotion-like cream, you're probably close to ovulation but not quite there. If the secretion is gummy, chances are you've just passed ovulation and the gummy stuff is dried up eggwhite. If you notice your cervix is somewhat dipping downwards, you are most likely not ovulating and may notice that having something in your vagina during sexual activity could cause that uncomfortable feeling of being bumped against. And, if your cervix is bluish-tinged or bright blue, pregnancy is quite possible, and it's time for a test. Observing the changes is interesting and gives you an idea of what's happening with your body and your cycles. Some of the women in Missoula used to even get together and have "cervix parties", where we'd all check each other out. Enjoy...

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