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Tracking the quality and quantity of cervical mucus produced by your body through the month will help you understand if and when you are ovulating. This knowledge will further help you while trying to conceive. Read on to know all about cervical mucus tracking for ovulation.
Cervical mucus is the aqueous substances produced by your cervix through different stages of the menstrual cycle. Every healthy woman produces several different kinds of cervical mucus (CM) depending on which day of the cycle it is. The quantity, quality and condition of cervical mucus during ovulation can be a great indicator of a woman’s health, body, and whether it is a good time to engage in sexual intercourse with her partner in order to get pregnant.
While more sophisticated and accurate methods for the detection of ovulation exist, using your cervical mucus as an indicator is easy, less time-consuming, and free of cost. Not only does cervical mucus tracking for ovulation give you a tool to better understand your body, it also empowers you to make informed decisions about your sexual life, pregnancy, and family planning.
However, before we understand the connection between cervical mucus and ovulation and take a look at the different types of cervical mucus, let us first understand a little about ovulation and cervical mucus.
What is Cervical Mucus?
Cervical mucus (CM) is a sticky, aqueous, gooey substance that is secreted by the glands present in the cervix (the neck like lower-end of the uterus, which connects it to the vagina). Cervical mucus, in particular, serves the following functions:
- It lubricates the cervix.
- It keeps the cervix moist and prevents it from shrinking out of dehydration.
- Just after ovulation, the cervical mucus acts as a transport medium for the sperms to reach the uterus and thereby have a chance to fertilize the egg.
- During the same period, CM also increases sperm longevity.
- During other phases of the menstrual cycle, the cervical mucus acts as a barrier to sperms, and prevents them from reaching the uterus.
Cervical Mucus and Ovulation
Ovulation is the process during which the ovary releases a mature egg into the uterus. Ovulation usually occurs around the middle of the menstrual cycle. If a woman has unprotected sexual intercourse within upto 72 hrs since ovulation, chances are high she will get pregnant.
Ovulation and CM are closely linked and can be used to improve chances of getting pregnant because the composition of cervical mucus keeps changing throughout the menstrual cycle. This means, by studying the CM being produced by her body, a woman can actually tell whether she is ovulating or not.
The menstrual cycle is primarily governed by 4 hormones – follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinising hormone (LH), oestrogen, and progesterone. In response to changing levels of these hormones, the woman’s body enters different phases of the menstrual cycle.
Monitoring Cervical Mucus During Ovulation
Woman can monitor cervical mucus by its appearance or just feel. By appearance, we mean that you observe color and consistency of cervical mucus to determine your ovulation period. The sensation produced by cervical mucus can also help in detecting your ovulation time. Women can do finger test; insert finger into your vagina and take note of cervical mucus. During pre-ovulatory period it will be dry. When you are fertile or highly-fertile, cervical mucus tends to be moist or slippery. And post-ovulatory phase, it is dry.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Take note of these different stages of cervical mucus to understand better of it and also if you want to get pregnant –
- Cervical mucus is made by the glands in your cervix and has two functions with regards to sperm.
- Cervical mucus can either kick out sperm or let it enter in the uterus.
- In the beginning of the cycle cervical mucus is dry, then sticky. As you approach ovulation it will be creamy and finally, in ovulating phase it is slippery.
- Slippery mucus indicates to a highly-fertile phase and sperm is attracted to it.
- To get pregnant, this is an apt time to have sex.
Appearance of The Cervical Mucus When Ovulating
During ovulation, the levels of FSH, LH, and oestrogen rise, and that of progesterone drops. In response to this, the composition of the CM changes: cervical mucus during ovulation is 98% aqueous. This makes it ‘thin’, more watery, and thereby favorable for the sperm to swim through and reach the uterus. The pH of CM at this time is more alkaline, allowing the sperm to survive in it. The CM that the female body produces during ovulation is hence often referred to as ‘fertile cervical mucus’.
Post ovulation, progesterone levels go up, and levels of FSH, LH, and oestrogen drop. This turns the cervical mucus less aqueous (around 93%), thick, less fluid, and more acidic. This is hence regarded as non-fertile cervical mucus.
Tracking Cervical Mucus
It must be clear from the above description of cervical mucus during ovulation that: for a couple that is trying to conceive, studying the cervical mucus consistency can be an easy and quick indicator of ovulation. While several sophisticated methods for tacking ovulation exist – such as ovulation predictor kits – checking on your CM is more discrete and easy. Additionally, it will allow women to identify their most fertile days, and may help the couple plan their sexual intercourse accordingly, so as to maximize chances of conception.
There are several parameters of the cervical mucus that you should watch out for, while trying to understand cervical mucus and ovulation, and trying to conceive. These are:
- consistency of CM (is it thick or thin)
- colour of CM
- opacity of CM (is it cloudy or transparent)
- texture of CM (is it creamy or watery)
Just after your menses ends, the cervix is pretty much dry, save for a very basal level of moistness that is present, just as it can be found in any body part. After a few days, the cervix gets progressively wetter.
The different cervical mucus stages you will be able to observe thereafter are as follows.
1. Creamy Cervical Mucus
If you check your CM and find it to be creamy, it is a sign that you are close to ovulation. This kind of mucus is generally found about 2 to 3 days before ovulation.
This is not the most fertile cervical mucus stage. However, it is not inhospitable or hostile for the sperm.
2. Watery Cervical Mucus
This type of mucus is a sure shot sign of ovulation. Onset of ovulation is marked by the formation of watery mucus that is thin, transparent, and almost the same consistency as water.
There is a very good chance of conception if a couple has sex during this period.
3. Egg White Cervical Mucus (EWCM)
Egg white cervical mucus – or EWCM – is the cervical mucus stage that is characterized by transparent mucus, which looks just like raw egg-white. It has pretty much the same consistency, texture, and transparency as raw egg white. If you hold EWCM between your fingers and try to stretch it, it will extend for up to 2 inches without breaking.
EWCM is the most fertile kind of CM. This is your best chance at trying to conceive!
4. Sticky Cervical Mucus
Sticky cervical mucus is usually found a couple or three days after ovulation. It indicates that your body is changing and you are entering the luteal phase.
This would not be a good time to try to conceive.
How to Check Cervical Mucus?
There are several ways in which you can check the state of your CM.
1. Check your Toilet Paper
Usually a little bit of your mucus will get rubbed off on your toilet paper when you wipe yourself after peeing. Check for the kind of cervical mucus that your toilet paper catches. If there isn’t enough, you can try again by inserting the tissue paper in your vagina a little deeper.
NOTE: Make sure your toilet paper is clean. Always store toilet paper in a clean and dry place, and keep it covered at all times to avoid catching an infection.
2. Check your Panty Liner
A lot of women use panty liners when they know they are going to be out of the house for long hours. A panty liner is a smaller, thinner, softer version of a sanitary napkin that absorbs unnecessary moisture and residual urine after you are done peeing, and keeps your panty dry. It also keeps you feeling fresh. Your CM can get deposited on your panty liner too at times. So you can simply take a closer look at it next time you pee.
3. Use a Surgical Swab
A surgical swab is like a cotton bud, but with a thicker ‘bud’ of cotton, and a longer stick. Usually surgical swabs are used by doctors and technicians to collect samples for inspection and diagnosis of diseases. They are easily available at a chemist. Make sure you buy a sterile swab. Inspect the sample just as explained above.
4. Insert a Clean Finger
A toilet paper may end up absorbing the water content from your CM and hence change its consistency. To avoid such a possibility. You may simple insert one or two fingers in your vagina, and ‘swab’ your cervix with your fingers.
Things like consistency, texture, and elasticity can be better assessed with your bare fingers than with tissue papers.
What Can Cause Changes to Cervical Mucus?
The composition, consistency, colour and at times even the smell of CM are all governed by the level of the four primary hormones that affect and control the menstrual cycle, viz. FSH, LH, oestrogen, and progesterone. A careful balance between the levels of these hormones will govern the amount and quality of CM produced during the menstrual cycle.
As explained previously, the quantity and type of CM produced by a your body depends on which stage of the menstrual cycle you are in. This is a natural and healthy process, and there is nothing to worry about. However, several other factors are known to affect the quality of CM. Let us try and understand what can cause changes to cervical mucus.
Different contraceptives work in different ways. The most common ones – oral contraceptives – work by preventing ovulation. However, a lot of women may be unaware that contraceptives are also effective because they increase the amount and thickness of the cervical mucus being produced. Women on contraceptives typically produce thick mucus which acts as a barrier and prevents sperms from swimming through it and reaching the uterus.
2. Hormonal Imbalance
Many a time, due to reasons like weight gain, stress, etc. a woman might experience hormonal imbalance. There are a lot of things that go wrong because of hormonal imbalance in the body. One of the effects is a change in the CM.
3. Disease or Infection
An infection or a disease will greatly alter the body’s microflora. For example, if a woman contracts a urinary-tract infection (UTI), the pH of the CM may change. The consistency of the CM may also change – often times women report on cloudy, thick CM. This is the body’s defence mechanism kicking in and preventing the germs from entering the body.
Stress affects different people in different ways: some put on weight when they are stressed, others suffer from body ache of pain in one or more parts of the body. Stress is known to affect the hormones of the body, and so many a time, stress can affect the quantity and/or quality of CM produced.
When a woman is pregnant, her body produces a cervical mucus plug that acts as a barrier and prevents bacteria from entering the uterus. This CM plug closely resembles nasal mucus in composition: it contains immunoglobulins, and antimicrobial peptides (short protein chains) that are similar to those found in the nose. In appearance this CM is thick, cloudy, and sticky.
It is a known fact that lactation suppresses ovulation. No ovulation means low oestrogen and high progesterone levels. This condition mimics the few days right after your menses, and so your cervix will also be in the corresponding state: it will be dry, with very little to no CM.
7. Weight Changes
Not all, but some women report of changes in either the quantity, or quality, or both, of their CM when they go on a diet. While small changes may go unnoticed, extreme weight gain or loss, and extreme changes in your diet might produce more perceptible changes in your cervical mucus.
Changes in cervical mucus while travelling are usually in response to change in water conditions. If the quality of water used for bathing and drinking is poor, your body will quickly adapt to this and produce a CM that will be slightly more cloudy and sticky than normal, as a defence mechanism, to keep infections away.
Hostile Cervical Mucus
Hostile cervical mucus is the kind that either does not allow sperms to survive in it, or affects their motility, or both. Hostile mucus may be either too dry, thick, acidic, or may even contain antibodies that make it impossible for sperms to survive in it.
A woman whose body is producing hostile CM may or may not conceive during her lifetime. Understand that such a woman is different from a woman who is not ovulating. A woman who is facing the problem of hostile CM is still ovulating; her body is producing a healthy egg each month. However, the hostile CM is preventing sperms from reaching this mature egg. A hostile CM is hence also called ‘infertile cervical mucus’ sometimes.
Factors that Cause Hostile Cervical Mucus
For a woman whose body ordinarily produces healthy cervical mucus, production of hostile cervical mucus can be an indication of several health conditions.
One of the ways to understand if your body is producing hostile mucus is to correlate the kind of CM being produced to the stage of the menstrual cycle you are in; if the CM is different from the expected CM of that menstrual stage, chances are something is ‘off’ and you need to see a doctor. Usually, medication can correct the situation, and with counselling, you can be on your way to conception soon.
On the other hand, it has also been observed that some women naturally produce a CM that is not very conducive to conception. There could be several factors that give rise to such a situation: lifestyle, food habits, physiology, etc. It would be advisable for women to first consult a doctor and understand what their normal/regular CM is like, before trying to conceive.
If you are trying to conceive, it is high time you get familiar with your body. Don’t feel shy to examine and explore yourself. Your CM, apart from helping you to conceive, can also be a good indicator of your overall health. Start at the end of your next menses, and get to know yourself.