Pregnancy and childbirth are true miracles, and so is the way a woman’s body is designed to perform this job, all the while protecting the growing baby and preparing for birth.
When you think of pregnancy and birth, you may consider how pliable your uterus is in terms of how much your baby grows in just nine months (even though when you’re the one expecting, it may feel like nine years!), or the critical role your placenta plays in keeping your baby nourished throughout pregnancy.
A less discussed but equally impressive part of your reproductive system is your cervix — the narrow, lower end of your uterus that connects your uterus and vagina. The cervical tissue is sturdy, so it’s strong enough to perform taxing work when you give birth. It’s also protective, both when you are and aren’t pregnant.
When you visit the team at Dekalb OB/GYN Affiliates in Decatur, Georgia, they ensure that your cervix is monitored as both a routine gynecologic practice and as a part of your body that enables you to give birth.
Dr. Shirley Rigaud-Echols and everyone at the practice provides OB/GYN care with great expertise and warmth, both of which are equally important to providing a positive experience.
What was my cervix designed to do?
Your cervix was designed to do a multitude of vital things, actually, and they all impact your health (and your baby’s if you’re pregnant).
The lining of your cervix contains glands that make and release mucus, which prevents bacteria from affecting your reproductive organs. Your cervix allows your menstrual flow to exit your body, and enables sperm to reach and fertilize an egg when you’re ovulating; the mucus it produces thins at this time.
Conversely, when you’re pregnant, your cervix produces thicker mucus, which forms a plug that covers your cervical opening. This mucus plug protects your baby by blocking the entrance of any harmful viruses or bacteria.
During pregnancy, your cervix becomes stronger, offering even more protection for your baby. It also opens, or dilates, to a full 10 centimeters to allow you to deliver your baby.
The functions of your cervix are diverse, from preserving your vaginal health and enabling your monthly cycle to allowing both conception and birth to occur.
How do I ensure that my cervix stays healthy?
It’s important to take good care of your cervix, since it serves you so well. Once you’re 21 years of age, a Pap test becomes a routine part of your annual well woman exam. This is when Dr. Rigaud-Echols takes a sample of cells from your cervix and sends them to a lab to be screened for abnormalities.
We know that most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Fortunately, we now have the HPV vaccine, which both girls and boys should get at age 11 or 12. For women who missed it though, vaccines are available for those up to age 45.
When you get preventive care and obstetric care at Dekalb OB/GYN Affiliates, we aim to educate you as well as care for you, so you feel informed as a patient and an active participant in your care.