Cervix: Definition, Anatomy & Function

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  • 0:00 What is a Cervix?
  • 0:35 Anatomy of a Cervix
  • 1:35 Function of a Cervix
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Meredith Mikell
The cervix is a prominent and dynamic part of the female reproductive system. Here we will examine the definition of the cervix, the structure, and function and will finish up with a short quiz to test your understanding.

What Is a Cervix?

The female reproductive system is a very intricate collection of parts that work together to ensure successful cycles and pregnancies. The cervix is a tube of tissue that connects the vagina to the uterus and has several important functions in maintaining the health of the uterus and facilitating fertilization of an egg during ovulation, should intercourse occur. It acts as a kind of barrier, sometimes opening and softening to allow sperm to enter the uterus, and other times staying firm and closed. During childbirth, the cervix opens up and the baby travels through it. In this image, the cervix is shown relative to the rest of the female reproductive system.

Anatomy of a Cervix

In the diagram, the side-view of the cervix shows it as a passageway between the vagina and uterus. The cervix is made of cartilage with a thick layer of soft tissue surrounding it. A front view of the cervix gives it the appearance of a doughnut. The opening in the center of the cervix is referred to as the os, and the vaginal side of the cervix is known as the ectocervix. The uterine side of the cervix is likewise called the endocervix, and the tissue in between the two sides is called the transformation zone. The length and appearance of the structures that make up the cervix change during a woman's cycle, during labor and childbirth and after childbirth. The following picture shows a vaginal view of a cervix in its typical os appearance before childbirth (left), and after childbirth (right).

Function of a Cervix

Just like an actual doughnut, the cervix can have a wide open hole in the middle or a tight, closed-off appearance. During most of the cycle, the cervix has a hardened feel and the os is a tiny hole. But the cervix changes both appearance and position during a woman's cycle. These changes are regulated by hormones and can actually be felt, or observed, by a doctor.

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