Menstrual StudyTo date, there has been scant research done by medical scientists on the menstrual cycle. Many of the photographs of cervixes are from a menstrual cycle study conducted by nine women at the Feminist Women's Health Center in 1975, which greatly increased our knowledge about healthy changes during the menstrual cycle. Three of the nine participants' cervixes are shown here. In addition to daily photographs, the women made 36 different observations of daily changes in the appearance of the cervix, vagina and clitoris; the amount, color and texture of secretions; and recorded outside factors which they felt might influence their cycle.
The brief health background for each woman is included, where it is relevant, to illustrate the range of experience the women have had with childbirth, abortion, birth control, sex and vaginal conditions. Although some of the information may not seem important, all of it does, in fact, have a bearing on that woman's condition. For example, for the pictures of the cervix, we attempted to include the precise day of the woman's cycle, because the appearance of the cervix changes from day to day. A woman's age is given to illustrate the point that the appearance of the cervix is not dependant on age.Through the photographer's lens, every feature of the cervix, vagina, and clitoris stands out. So do certain other features, like the outline of the speculum, which often appears as a circle of light. The particular angle of the cervix and the color variations from picture to picture may be more the result of the photographic process than of something different or unusual about the cervix itself.
The many different shots of the cervix illustrate the range of normal appearance and a number of common conditions which health women have.The photos in "Changes During the Menstrual Cycle" from the menstrual cycle study show the continuous and very distinct changes that occur throughout a woman's cycle, contrasted with the relative lack of change when a woman is on the Pill.In the early stages of this project, self-helpers were taking photographs of their cervixes and vaginas with an instant camera. These photographs were very useful, but they did not reproduce well and color quality was undependable.
Then they met filmmaker Sylvia Morales, who had never done any medical photography but was interested in experimenting with techniques that would enable women to have more information about their bodies.Sylvia had to assemble her own equipment and try a variety of techniques in order to get lifelike color photos of the inside of the vagina. Her primary concern was to avoid any irritation or injury to the women who posed for the photographs. The most difficult problem was the heat of the flash, and in order to make sure that caused not irritation to the cervix and mucous membranes of the vagina, she had to resort to a telephoto lens and work farther away.The first series of Sylvia's photographs were exceptionally beautiful, so beautiful, in fact, that they made the inside of the vagina look like another world and detracted from the informational aspect of the photos. Therefore, she modified her technique to make them more straight forward and informative.
View Pictures of Women's Cervixes
Changes During the Menstrual Cycle
For more information on the self help movement and history of the Feminist Women's Health Centers, visit Carol Downer's website Women's Health in Women's Hands.
The above material adapted from A New View of A Woman's Body, by the Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers, Feminist Health Press, Los Angeles, CA, 1981.