So THAT's What Your Cervix Actually Looks Like

Add it to the list of thing we weren't told about in school...
Anchiy via Getty Images

Is it a doughnut? Is it a sponge? NO. It’s just your cervix.

Recently, troves of social media users were whipped into a frenzy after BeYou shared an image of an IRL cervix on Instagram. The image of the cervix in question is part of the Beautiful Cervix Project, (open that link with caution), which seeks to showcase the beauty of anatomy and fertility.

Not everyone was so taken with the image though. One user, who claimed to be a midwife, commented saying it wasn’t what she expected it to look like. Another exclaimed that it had made them feel quite sick and was “haunting them”.

Ready? Here you go.

Meanwhile, other people were quick to point out that their cervixes looked different because of endometriosis and cervical ectropion. But your cervix may look different even if you don’t have these medical conditions.

Cervixes, like vulvas, come in a number of different shapes and sizes and can change their appearance throughout your lifetime as you enter puberty and into menopause. Having children can also change their appearance, in some cases.

They can be found at the top of the vaginal canal, beneath the entrance to the uterus. But, not all women have them — and, some men do.

The cervix plays a vital role in the female reproductive system as it prevents bacteria from entering the womb. Not only does it protect from bacterial infection, but it also produces discharge which cleans the vagina. Think of it as a gatekeeper and cleaner all in one.

During the menstrual phase of your cycle, the cervix opens to allow the uterine wall to exit the womb, preventing blood from building up. When you ovulate, the mucus the cervix secretes becomes thinner which allows for the sperm to make its way to the egg with less resistance.

And, should you become pregnant, the cervix tightens up and keeps your baby safely in the womb where it can develop from cell structures, to embryo, to baby. Then, when you’re ready to give birth dilates enough to let your child move through your vaginal canal as you give birth.

However people might feel about seeing parts of their insides up close and personal, getting to grips with our cervixes is important for our health. Cervical cancer is diagnosed in 3,000 women a year and five year survival currently stands at 67.4%. But, 99.8% of cervical cancer is preventable.

Attending a smear can feel like a frightening thing to do. Some people fear pain, being in a vulnerable position, feeling shame or embarrassment. Others might worry about what their religious community might think, or have trouble attending because of historic sexual assault.

While all of these feelings are valid and shared by countless other women, the importance of getting a smear regularly between the ages of 25-65 cannot be overstated.

When you go for your smear, a speculum is inserted into the vagina and a bristled swab takes a sample of skin cells. By doing this, labs can detect the beginnings of cancerous cells caused by a virus named Human Papilloma Virus. It’s believed that 10% of women with HPV on their cervix will develop long-lasting HPV, which can put you at risk of developing cervical cancers.

So if you’re currently dodging a phone call, or letter to book an appointment. Take this as your sign to get it done. You won’t regret it.