It doesn’t usually come up in casual conversation (unless of course, you have a job like mine!), but you’ve probably heard of the “cervix” and know that it’s somewhere down there hanging out with the vagina or the uterus.
This is mostly correct, but there’s a lot more to know about your cervix, especially when it comes to getting the right menstrual cup or protecting yourself from cervical cancer.
Let’s start with the basics, and we’ll work our way up (or down?). By the end of it, you should come out knowing exactly where the cervix is, what it means to have a high or low or tilted cervix, and how your cervix figures into periods, sex, and pregnancy.
What is the cervix, and where the heck is it?
Basically, the cervix is a little tunnel or gateway from the uterus to the vagina. It’s only about 3 centimeters long, or 1 inch. If a balloon is the uterus, the opening of the balloon would be the cervix.
If you want the technical definition, here it is:
What can the cervix do?
It’s more like, what can’t the cervix do? It may seem like an insignificant little passageway, but it actually has a lot of important jobs that it never gets recognized for.
Most importantly, the cervix acts as a badass bouncer for your uterus. You should be thanking your cervix for keeping out all the riff raff, like salty seawater or bacteria-filled hot tub water.
It acts as a security checkpoint for other things, too. Thanks to your cervix, tampons can’t get stuck up inside your uterus and lost forever, either. The opening isn’t big enough for a tampon, but it is wide enough to let blood flow out of the uterus and into the vagina when you have your period.
Most of the month, and also when you’re pregnant, your cervix produces a thick mucus that helps keep sperm out. When you ovulate, though, the mucus gets thinner, and that’s when sperm gets a free pass.
When you’re carrying a baby, the cervix holds the baby in place and prevents you from going into labor too early. When your body’s ready, it dilates and allows the baby to pass through so you can give birth.
How deep is the cervix?
So we know that if you go deep enough into the vagina, you’ll hit the cervix. But just how far up there is it? This is kind of a trick question, because the cervix moves around depending on the time of the month and what’s happening with your body. To start with, you could have a low or high cervix.
Low vs. high cervix
A low cervix means it may only be about 2 inches up inside the vagina or even lower. But if you have a high cervix, you may have to go about 5-6 inches in to reach it. Everyone else’s cervix is about 3-4 inches deep. Check out our guide on how to measure your cervix if you’re not sure how deep yours is.
Now you may be thinking, well the vagina’s not as long as I thought, so can things like fingers, tampons, penises, and sex toys hurt your cervix?
Well, these measurements hold true when you’re not aroused. But if you are, your vagina magically gets longer (pretty cool, right?) and the cervix moves farther in to accommodate things. It’s also higher and harder to reach during ovulation and when you become pregnant, but it drops lower during menstruation.
Some brands of tampons might feel more comfortable to you than others depending on how high or low your cervix is. And as for menstrual cups, finding one that’s right for your cervix height will be more comfortable than using one-size-fits-all tampons.
What’s a tilted cervix?
“Tilted cervix” is not really a helpful name. First of all, when people say tilted cervix, they really mean tilted uterus.
The “normal” uterus position is tilted forward and resting against or on top of your bladder, at a 90-degree angle to your vagina cavity. But in about a quarter of people, their uterus is actually tipped back and rests against the rectum.
In both cases, it’s tilted, but we only call it “tilted” when it’s tilted backward.
Usually, having a tilted cervix or uterus doesn’t cause any problems, though. You probably won’t know you have one unless your doctor notices it during a pelvic exam or through ultrasound.
What’s the best menstrual cup for my cervix?
When you’re looking for the right menstrual cup, remember to factor in your cervix height for maximum comfort. You want to look at the cup length, which is measured in millimeters.
Search our menstrual cup chart for “low cervix” or “high cervix,” or look for a length that fits your cervix height:
Low=45 mm or lower
High=55 mm or higher
Having a tilted cervix shouldn’t really affect which menstrual cup you choose. It will however, make it really hard to wear a menstrual disc, since there’s no room to tuck one behind your cervix. For best results, stick to a cup.
How can I protect my cervix from cervical cancer?
More than 95% of cervical cancer cases are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual contact. Since the HPV vaccine works best before exposure to HPV, the World Health Organization recommends vaccination in people assigned female at birth at age 9-14 or before they become sexually active.
You should also be getting tested for HPV starting at age 30 and then every 5-10 years. That way, if you are infected with HPV, you can get treatment before it leads to cancer.