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Overview of cervicitis

Cervicitis is inflammation of the cervix, the narrow opening at the bottom of the uterus. More than half of adult women experience cervicitis in their lifetime. The symptoms of cervicitis are similar to those of vaginitis, so it is important to get a diagnosis if you have symptoms. Find a Doctor at Dignity Health for expert women’s healthcare.


Most women do not have apparent signs or symptoms of cervicitis. Doctors often discover cervicitis during Pap tests or pelvic exams. When cervicitis symptoms do appear, the most common ones include:

  • Bleeding after sex, between periods, or after menopause
  • Gray, green, brown, yellow, or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal pain
  • Frequent, painful urination
  • Feeling pressure in the pelvic area
  • Backache

With these symptoms in mind, see your doctor if you have unusual vaginal discharge that persists, bleeding that is not related to menstruation, or pain during sexual intercourse.


Infections are the most common cause of cervicitis. These can be sexually transmitted (STIs), or the infection can come from a different source. Cervicitis can also be caused by trauma or irritation of the cervix. Causes include:

  • STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and trichomoniasis
  • Chemicals present in vaginal douches and contraceptive creams
  • Allergic reaction to latex in condoms or an ingredient in a spermicide or douche solution
  • An overgrowth of bacteria, commonly found in the vagina
  • Trauma or irritation from devices that come into contact with the cervix, including tampons, cervical caps, diaphragms, and pessaries (devices used to treat uterine prolapse and incontinence)
  • The presence of pre-cancerous or cancerous cells

Risk factors

Several risk factors can increase your chances of developing cervicitis. These risk factors are primarily associated with sexual intercourse. They include:

  • Having unprotected sex
  • Having sex with multiple partners
  • Having sex with a partner who exhibits high-risk sexual behavior
  • Having sex at an early age
  • History of STIs


With the above risk factors in mind, the best way to prevent cervicitis is to abstain from sex. When having sex, be sure to use a condom for protection. Additional prevention methods include:

  • Having fewer partners (ideally one)
  • Ensuring you know the sexual history of your partners (commit to both of you getting tested for STIs)
  • Avoiding the use of products that have chemicals (scented tampons, douches)
  • For anything inserted into the vagina, following the directions for safe insertion and removal