What Is Self Help?
To date, there has been precious little medical research on the menstrual cycle, except to subvert its functioning to prevent pregnancy, or on any aspect of female health that would enhance female’s sexual and reproductive lives.
You have the right to know your options and make informed decisions about your own body.
Self Help provides an opportunity, in person or online, where you can learn what your vagina and cervix look like throughout your normal cycle. This is done alone or in groups where women share information about their bodies and healthcare in a non-judgmental, caring way.
Self Help gives you the knowledge and comfort to know what's normal for you, what is out of the ordinary, and the confidence to choose what to do when. Using a speculum to do a cervical self exam, you can see your vagina and cervix for yourself and you won't have to depend on a physician to tell you what's normal - you'll know.
The Self Help section of this site helps you learn how to recognize what your body is telling you. We can understand and control our own health and wellbeing.
Self Help History & Principles
In order for self help to be the strategy that allows we women to "break through", women everywhere would need to know about it. Helped along by the presence in Los Angeles of thousands of women attending a NOW (National Organization for Women) convention in August 1971, self-help began to spread across the nation. After distributing a flyer announcing just one hour-long meeting about (self-examination), the original (self-help) group found themselves sharing self-help with small groups of women non-stop throughout the entire conference. Leaving the meeting room with their speculums in brown paper bags, these women went back to their local NOW chapters and started spreading the word. In October, Downer and Rothman went on a six-week cross-country tour (via Greyhound bus!), sharing self-help with women everywhere from Wichita to New York City. Many long-lasting groups resulted. Find more about how self help began on The Women's Health Specialists website.
The following Self Help Principles are quoted from The Women's Health Specialists website:
The Feminist Self-Help (self-cervical exam) Movement has been shared with multiple generations of women by the community of Feminists who remain committed to self-help as foundational to self-determination and women’s liberation.
The following principles of unity seek to preserve the integrity of feminist self-help groups and to identify those elements which are at the core. Feminist Self-help groups share these common values:
- Participatory group - Women create a non medicalized, participatory, group experience guided by women in consensus with equal commitment, participation, and confidentiality.
- Judgment free - Women create a safe space to share and learn from one another in a judgment free, non-hierarchical fashion made powerful by and reserved for women. We will not pass judgment on the number of sexual partners, or any woman’s right to have or not have children. Self-help is an opportunity for women to receive and give support to each other regarding their choices of birth control methods, abortion, adoption, number of children, child spacing, body image, sexuality, sexual practices, and aging which undermines the larger society’s greater attempts at coercing women to view their bodies and themselves in isolation.
- Decolonize our bodies - We support decolonizing, demystifying and demedicalizing our bodies and minds through sharing our own experiences, listening and learning from one another and validating each other’s experiences.
- Decision making - Through participation and consensus, group facilitators and participants are one in the same, sharing and learning from one another in an environment free from voyeurism, exploitation, and individualism. We leave professional and academic titles at the door, and do not recognize hierarchy by position. The group members make all of their decisions in an egalitarian way, keeping the participatory energy present in the circle. Every woman has her own pace in participation, and that no woman will engage in self-exam unless she chooses to do so.
- Inclusivity - We are deeply committed to inclusiveness and value women from all cultures, classes, and races as we incorporate their stories and learn their social mores. We inspire and support new generations of women to carry on self-help in ways that may be unfamiliar, but relevant to the current culture.
At Home Self Exam
Self Cervical Exam
How Does At Home Self Exam Benefit You?
Taking the time to learn how to do a cervical self exam for yourself is one of the most useful health tools you can have. Every woman's normal cycle is different and when you notice how your cervix changes throughout your cycle, you can track fertility, recognize your normal secretions, and simply get familiar with this vital part of your anatomy that you aren't given the opportunity to get familiar with when you visit your care provider office. Using a speculum, you can see the vagina and cervix for yourself and you won't have to depend on a physician telling you what's normal - you'll know. The cervix is the neck of the uterus, and sits at the back of the vagina.
You'll be able to observe changes in your cervix including:
- Normal and variant secretions
- Your menstrual cycle
- Indications of fertility
You'll be able to identify and treat common vaginal conditions like:
- Bacterial infections
Self Help In Groups
Supporting & Helping One Another
Self Help Groups
A Self Help group brings women together where shared experiences and a supportive environment help you recognize that there are variations in all women’s cervixes. Women give a brief health background of their experiences with childbirth, abortion, birth control, sex and vaginal health, all of which gives insight into each woman’s overall health.
For example, not only will your cervix look different each day throughout your cycle (giving you an idea of your fertility), your cervical OS will change when you’ve had children or an abortion or and as you age.
Sharing the experience of looking at yours and other women’s cervixes in a group setting lets you get a general understanding of every feature of the cervix, the angle of the cervix often different among women and the vagina.