Cervix is often used as a term to describe the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The cervix is located in the upper region of the vagina and is typically about 2-3 inches long.
The cervix is made up of stiff fibrous tissues and muscles, and it has several functions including:
- Producing cervical mucus, which helps to carry sperm
- Acting as a barrier between the uterus and the vagina
- Keeping the baby in the uterus until birth
- Dilating (opening) during childbirth
- Helping to expel the baby during labor
Role in Childbirth
The Cervix plays a very important role during childbirth. It is responsible for keeping the baby in the uterus until birth and then helping to expel the baby during labor. The cervix must also ripen and stretch, and dilate (open) to allow the baby to exit the uterus and to pass through the vagina. Cervical dilation usually begins when contractions start and can take up to several hours to fully dilate.
Typically, the dilation needs to be at least 10 cm in order for the baby to be born vaginally. If the dilation is less than 10 cm, an intervention may be necessary.
Problems related to the Cervix
Several problems can occur with the cervix, including:
Cervical incompetence – this is when the cervix begins to dilate prematurely, typically before the 37th week of pregnancy. This can cause the baby to be born prematurely.
Cervical stenosis – this is when the cervix becomes too narrow and makes it difficult for the baby to pass through.
Failure to progress – this is when the cervix does not dilate as it should during childbirth, which can cause the baby to become stuck in the uterus
Cervical cancer – this is a rare cancer that affects the cervix. It can be treated if caught early, but it can be fatal if left untreated.
This image shows how often the term ‘Cervix’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:
Cervix is similar to other terms such as Vagina and Uterus, but it has a specific meaning within the birth industry. It is important to be aware of these distinctions to avoid confusion. Vagina is the general term for the external genitalia, while Uterus refers to the organ in which a baby grows.
The term Cervix is also often used interchangeably with the terms cervix uteri and cervical canal. However, it is important to note that the cervix uteri is the entire structure including the uterus and cervix, while the cervical canal is the opening at the end of the cervix.