How many women especially in Africa can attest to the fact that they understand the female reproductive anatomy. Talking about the female reproductive organs, how many know about the cervix; it’s location and functions.
In a recent survey of 1,000 British women, 44 percent were unable to identify the vagina on a medical illustration of the female reproductive tract. It’s indeed surprising how just few women understand their body and reproductive system.
It is of utmost importance for every woman to know how the cervix functions, as it plays an important role in conception, menstruation, and childbirth.
Before going further into this article on when the cervix opens during pregnancy, we will first establish what the cervix is and where it’s located in the female body.
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About the Cervix
The Cervix is part of the uterus, located at the lower end of the vagina and acts as the opening point into the uterus where sperm travels to reach eggs which can lead to fertilization. During menstruation, the cervix opens slightly to allow menstrual blood to flow out of the uterus.
Cervix is the lowest region of the uterus, it attaches the uterus to the vagina and provides a passage between the vaginal cavity and the uterine cavity. The cervix, only about 4 centimetres 1.6 inches long, projects about 2 centimetres into the upper vaginal cavity.
The cervix acts as a passage to the uterus which sperm can travel through to fertilize eggs. When your body is not carrying a child, your cervix helps keep unhealthy things out of your body, like soap, bath water, tampons. When you’re pregnant, the cervix helps keep the baby in place until it’s fully developed.
The function of the cervix are many and one of it’s most important role is in childbirth. The cervix is needed to prevent preterm labor and cue the body to dilate at the right time and enable a child to be born vaginally.
Thus the cervix is made up of two regions, the ectocervix and endocervix and it’s on average 3–4 cm long and 2.5 cm wide.
The ectocervix is the portion of the cervix that goes into the vagina. It is lined by stratified squamous non-keratinized epithelium. The opening in the ectocervix, the external os, marks the transition from the ectocervix to the endocervical canal.
The endocervix (or endocervical canal) is the inner part of the cervix. It is lined by a mucus-secreting simple columnar epithelium. The endocervical canal ends, and the uterine cavity begins, at a narrowing called the internal os.
Functions of the Cervix
The cervix performs two primary functions:
- It facilitates the passage of sperm into the uterine cavity: This is achieved through dilation of the external and internal os.
- Maintains sterility of the upper female reproductive tract: The cervix, and all structures superior to it, are sterile. This ultimately protects the uterine cavity and the upper genital tract by preventing bacterial invasion. This environment is maintained by the frequent shedding of the endometrium, thick cervical mucus and a narrow external os.
Cervix in Pregnancy
One of the function of the uterine cervix during pregnancy is maintaining a pregnancy to term so that the fetus can develop fully. At the end of pregnancy, however, the cervix must allow delivery, which requires it to markedly soften, shorten and dilate to allow baby’s passage into the world.
During pregnancy, the primary function of the cervix is to maintain the fetus within the uterus. This has to do with taking-on multiple forces from the uterus, including the weight of the growing fetus and amniotic sac, as well as passive pressure from the uterine wall.
The structure of the uterine cervix is important to the maintenance of pregnancy. Weakness of the cervix may lead to pre-term birth.
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After Pregnancy, the cervix reforms back to its previous shape and consistency.
When Does the Cervix Open in Pregnancy
During pregnancy, cervical mucus thickens to create a cervical “plug” that shields the growing embryo from infection.
As a woman gets closer to going into labor, the cervical plug thins and sheds. The cervix softens and shortens (this is called effacement) and then dilates in preparation for birth.
Upon closure to your due date, your doctor will check the cervix for dilation to try to gauge when you are likely to give birth.
During active labour, the cervix opens to accommodate the passage of the baby’s head into the vagina which is about 10 cm dilated for most full term babies.
With the dilation of the cervix comes regular painful contractions.
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