What is cervical mucus?
When it comes to monitoring your fertility, your body is the most important resource. For women, your cervical mucus can provide important information about your cycles and reproductive health. If you are trying to calculate your ovulation window, keeping track of the qualities of your cervical mucus is a vital step in better understanding your menstrual cycle.
Cervical mucus is fluid in the vagina that helps the sperm travel to the egg during fertilization. Because of this, the appearance and consistency fluctuate throughout the month — and affect the chances of getting pregnant at a given time.
Tracking your cervical mucus is a viable fertility awareness method. When done correctly, studies show that it is a very effective way to predict ovulation — and recognize when the window has passed.
For women who are trying to avoid getting pregnant, it is important to understand what your cervical mucus looks like during and after ovulation, along with the other signs and symptoms of your fertile window.
This method of tracking can be effective for avoiding pregnancy as well as trying to conceive. It is recommended that you track your cervical mucus changes for at least one full menstrual cycle and consult with your physician before considering using cervical mucus tracking as a form of birth control.
Signs and symptoms of ovulation
Ovulation is the phase of the menstrual cycle in which a mature egg is released from the ovaries and into the fallopian tubes — where it can be fertilized by incoming sperm. Typically, about two weeks after menstruation begins, a woman will release one egg per month.
There are several signs and symptoms that can point to ovulation:
Changes in cervical mucus
Research shows that observing changes in cervical mucus is one of the most effective ways to track ovulation and your current place in the menstrual cycle.
During ovulation, rising estrogen causes an increase in cervical mucus. At the peak of your fertility, your cervical mucus may be stretchy and “egg white”-like in texture. During your fertile window, you are producing the largest amount of mucus you will experience during your cycle.
Observing these qualities can be an accurate sign of ovulation, during which you are two to three times more likely to conceive.
After ovulation, your body starts to produce less cervical mucus. During the post-ovulation period of time, the mucus you produce may:
- Appear clouded
- Have a sticky or tacky consistency
- Dry up
If you are not pregnant, your cervical mucus will be dramatically reduced. However, if the egg is fertilized, you will experience an increase in discharge due to the rising hormone levels in the body.
Increased sex drive
During the middle of your menstrual cycle, you may notice a drastic boost in your libido. This is one of the most common signs of ovulation.
Many women experience tenderness or soreness of the breasts during ovulation. Though it may be subtle, this can be a sign of ovulation — especially when it occurs mid-cycle.
Increased basal body temperature
During ovulation, your body experiences a surge in progesterone, which causes your basal temperature to increase. Your basal body temperature is your lowest body temperature, which is attained during rest and typically measured immediately upon waking. Tracking your morning basal temperature and making a note of increases can help you pinpoint your most fertile days each month.
Pain or aching of ovaries
Some women feel a physical sensation in their ovaries around ovulation, though the sensation varies widely from person to person. You may experience a noticeable ache or twinge of sharp pain. You may experience ovulation sensations as a one-sided backache or cramping — also known as Mittelschmerz.
Other causes of reduced cervical mucus
After ovulation, it is normal for cervical mucus to be reduced or dry up. However, underlying issues can cause cervical mucus to behave in a similar way, such as:
- Ovulation issues
- Medicinal side effects
- Unhealthy douching
- Excessively low BMI
- Hormonal imbalance
Recognizing changes in cervical mucus
Tracking your cervical mucus is important not only for conception and birth control — it can be an important indicator of reproductive health. If you notice an unusual change in the amount or qualities of your cervical mucus, always contact your doctor. If your doctor suspects an underlying condition, they may order tests or additional tracking.
Contraception: "Accuracy of the peak day of cervical mucus as a biological marker of fertility."
Fertility and Sterility: "Cervical mucus monitoring prevalence and associated fecundability in women trying to conceive."
Fertility and Sterility: "Inadequate cervical mucus--a cause of "idiopathic" infertility."
Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation: "Cervical mucus and prediction of the time of ovulation."
Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology: "Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility."
The Linacre Quarterly: "Physiological Signs of Ovulation and Fertility Readily Observable by Women."
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