Grandmother Speaks… The Cervix: Part One
by Susun Weed
I am the gateway; I am the door. I connect the inside to the outside. I decide which outside comes in. I control the flux and the flow. I hold the wise blood, or let it go. I protect the growing babe, or thrust it unformed into a world unsuitable. None leave, none enter, except by my grace, my decision. I am the passage of birth. I am the mark of the sun. I am as near as the reach of your finger, yet mysterious and hidden. Many women, most men, born through me, go their whole life without gazing upon me.
I offer blood to Mother Earth. I spin stretchy strings of fertile mucus to Grandmother Moon. I am as sensitive as the best hound’s nose, as authoritative as the wisest crone. I am not, and have never been, innocent. I am all seeing, though darkness is my constant companion, and my eye but single. (How curious that women in India believe I have two eyes.)
I know how to be firm and potent, how to stand strong against those who would storm my portal. I know how to be loose and soft, how to welcome those who bring future’s hope. I know how to efface myself and withdraw, making way, stretching myself to the utmost, opening wide in sweet surrender.
I pulse within you. I am your cervix, the mouth of your womb.
What is the Cervix?
The cervix is the neck of the uterus. It projects into the upper part of the vagina and can be felt with the fingertips, especially in a squatting position. With the aid of a speculum, a mirror, and a flashlight, you can see your cervix, too.
During labor, the cervix dilates, allowing the baby to leave the womb, enter the vagina, and be born. The cervix also opens, just a little, to help push menstrual blood out of the uterus, and to allow sperm inside so fertilization can occur.
Medical opinion holds that the cervix is “insensitive to pain,” a statement that I challenge.
The cervix is covered by a thin layer of cells, called the epithelium. And the epithelium has two kinds of cells: ones that grow in columns, and ones that are flat and scaly. The columnar ones make up the inner surface of the cervix and are red, like our lips. The flat ones (squamous cells) make up the outer surface and are pink, like some skins. The place where they meet is the squamo-columnar junction, or transition zone, one of the most common sites of cervical cancer.
A healthy, fertile, cervix looks pink, with a pretty round, red mouth, the os. (Before puberty, the entire cervix is red as pink squamous cells have yet to cover it.)
A cervix that is infected, irritated, or growing abnormally usually looks lumpy, bumpy, very red, and weepy. (A vinegar wash is needed to make the white lesions of HPV visible.)
A variety of organisms, including parasites, bacteria, and viruses, as well as wear and tear from childbirth and intercourse can affect the health of the cervix. The major categories of cervical distress are - going from least to worst - cervicitis, erosion, dysplasia, HPV infections, and cancer.
Cervicitis: Inflammation of the Cervix
Acute cervicitis is inflammation - reddening, swelling, and sometimes bleeding - of the cervix. Cervicitis can follow a difficult birth, vacuum aspiration, or trauma. It can be triggered by use of hormones such as birth control pills and menopausal hormone pills, or by irritation from the string of an IUD. But, usually, cervicitis is caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection such as Trichomonas vaginalis, Candida albicans, or Haemophilus vaginalis. Cervicitis can be symptomless, or it can cause pain on intercourse, itching and burning of the genitals, and/or discharge. Specific treatment with drugs or herbs to eliminate the infective organisms is usually effective.
If redness and irritation continue in the absence of infection, daily application of aloe vera gel, honey, or vitamin E oil, directly on the cervix for 2-3 weeks is generally effective.
Chronic cervicitis occurs when inflammation and infection of the cervix continues unchecked for many years. The cervix thickens, cysts protrude, tears and scars from childbirth and gynecological procedures accumulate, and, depending on the infection, noxious-smelling discharges, sometimes with pelvic pain, may come and go. Orthodox medicine uses antibiotics and surgery to clear the inflamed tissue, rather like using a backhoe to clear the ground; feminist doctors consider this over-treatment. Alternative approaches, like a careful gardener, work to remove infections, reverse precancerous changes, and increase the health of the woman and her cervix with as little disruption as possible. If the condition worsens or fails to respond to treatment within 3-12 months, surgical remedies are indicated.
Down There: Sexual and Reproductive Health the Wise Woman Way
Publication date: June 21, 2011
Simple, successful, strategies cover the entire range of options -- from mainstream to radical -- to help you choose the best, and the safest, ways to optimize sexual and reproductive health.
Foreword: Aviva Romm, MD, midwife, 484 pages, Index, illustrations. Retails for $29.95
Ms. Weed's five herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including menopause, childbearing, and breast health. Browse the publishing site www.wisewomanbookshop.com for books, DVDs, audio downloads and gifts. Visit her site www.susunweed.com for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more! Go to: www.wisewomanmentor.com for Susun's free herbal ezine and also mentorship offerings for those who want to go deeper.