Have you ever wondered what your cervix looks like?
Cervixes are amazing and do so much. They close off the uterus to protect it from infection, they hold in a growing baby for 10 months, and they can open up (really wide) to let that baby out when it's time for delivery.
Dr. Adelaide Nardone is a gynecologist in New York who says that the size of the opening of the cervix depends on whether the woman has had a vaginal delivery or not.
In an article on Babble, Dr. Nardone said, "If a woman has never had a baby, her cervical opening is very small, in some cases as small as a pin head, but large enough to allow for menstrual blood to flow out and to allow for the insertion of a cytobrush [a device used for pap smears]."
Some women have made it their mission to educate people about the cervix and the female body. American sex educator and porn star, Annie Sprinkle is one of those women.
With her performance piece, Public Cervix Announcement, she gave people the opportunity to see a cervix up close and personal. On her website, Sprinkle writes, "Over the years, I've given thousands of people that rare opportunity, by showing my cervix with the aid of a speculum and a flashlight to individual members of theater audiences who stood in line by the hundreds in over a dozen countries."
Sprinkle goes on to lament that fact that so many people are ignorant when it comes to the cervix.
"Lots of folks, both women and men, know very little about female anatomy and so are ashamed and/or afraid of the cervix. That's sad, so I do my best to lift that veil of ignorance. I adore my cervix. I'm proud of her in every way and am happy to put her on display."
Annie Sprinkle isn't alone in her cervix enthusiasm. O'Nell Starkey had a midwifery school assignment to track her daily cervical position, so she decided to use a photographic approach. In an article on SELF, Starkey described her process.
"I decided to use a speculum and look at my cervix every day in addition to feeling it with my finger and observing the changes in the fluid it produces. I had my partner take a photo of my cervix every day for a cycle so I could see the changes it was going through."
She shared the photos online, thinking that her fellow students would find them interesting. But to her surprise, many others on the Internet took notice.
Starkey opened up the project so other women could submit pictures of their cervixes. Seven years later, The Beautiful Cervix Project has a ton of images and millions of visitors.
"Women who are inspired to learn more about themselves volunteer to contribute to the project and take the photos themselves (or have a partner or friend or doctor take the photos) in the comfort of their own homes," Starkey says.
Some choose to share a single image such as the cervix post-childbirth, while others share a picture of a cervix during a pap smear or after a LEEP procedure to remove precancerous cells. Some women send in a whole series of pictures that show how the cervix changes over the course of one menstrual cycle. Also included are pictures of a cervix pre- and post-coitus, pre- and post-menopause, and ones that show the strings of an IUD.
Check out these very NSFW various stages of the cervix:
"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," Starkey says. "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."
Sprinkle sums it up this way: "The female body will always be a very great mystery, no matter how many you see or how much knowledge you achieve. You can never demystify a cervix. It's a magnificent miracle — the doorway to life itself."