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The vital role of the cervix

Last Modified: 4/11/2019

This post was written by Erin Norton, director of community outreach, Parkview Women’s & Children’s Hospital.

The cervix is a part of the female body that is out of sight and mostly out of mind. Unlike a growing uterus or “baby bump,” the cervix doesn’t get much attention. Although it is rarely discussed, it is essential for a healthy pregnancy. Here, we answer some important questions about this impressive part of the female anatomy.

What is the cervix?

The cervix is a part of the female reproduction system. It is the lower portion of the uterus that connects the vagina to the interior of the womb. The cervix is shaped somewhat like a cylinder and is about 2-3 centimeters in length.  

 How does the cervix function during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the cervix is closed. A thick mucus plug seals the cervix during pregnancy. Passing the mucus plug is a sign that labor is approaching.

How does the cervix function during labor?

The cervix will get shorter and open. This is called effacement and dilation and allows the baby to pass through during childbirth. When the cervix is fully dilated to 10 centimeters, it opens to about the size of a bagel.

What happens if the cervix doesn’t function properly?

If the cervix begins to dilate too soon, a woman is at risk of delivering her baby prematurely. A woman’s care provider may monitor the cervical length during pregnancy with ultrasound testing.

How can I keep my cervix healthy?

Go to yearly well woman visits with your care provider. and ask your provider about the HPV vaccine and about the pap test, a type of cervical screening.


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