Advice on identifying fertility and ovulation by charting changes in cervical mucus.
One of the primary indicators of fertility is cervical fluid (or cervical mucus) as its appearance and consistency changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Unlike BBT charting which lets you know when you have ovulated, monitoring cervical fluid on a daily basis can actually help you to predict when you are at your most fertile and consequently when you are most likely to conceive.
What is cervical fluid?
Cervical fluid is produced by the cervix, the part of the reproductive system that separates the vagina from the uterus. It then flows from the cervix into the vagina where it appears as vaginal discharge. The production of cervical fluid throughout the menstrual cycle is determined by levels of the hormone oestrogen which helps to prepare the body for ovulation. As one of the primary functions of cervical fluid is to facilitate fertilisation by nourishing and protecting sperm as they travel through the reproductive system, its consistency changes as ovulation approaches. By monitoring changes throughout the cycle it is possible to establish when you are likely to be at your most fertile enabling you to time intercourse accordingly.
At the beginning of your cycle and for the first few days after menstruation, oestrogen levels are low so little cervical fluid is present. As estrogen levels increase during the cycle you may notice an increase in fluid production; it is likely to seem sticky and cloudy or creamy in appearance. As ovulation approaches and fertility increases your cervical fluid is likely to increase in volume and become clear and stretchy, resembling water. Your period of peak fertility is considered to be when your cervical fluid is of a very stretchy and clear consistency and most closely resembles egg white - it is in this type of cervical fluid that helps to promote sperm survival. After ovulation levels of estrogen begin to drop resulting in a decrease in the presence of cervical fluid until menstruation when the cycle begins again.
Although this is the 'typical' cycle of cervical fluid it does differ between individuals and after a few months of daily charting (especially when combined with BBT) you will become familiar with the signs and associated fertility pattern of your own body.
Monitoring cervical fluid
It is possible to monitor your cervical fluid internally and externally. If you choose to monitor cervical fluid externally you should use toilet paper to wipe the entrance of your vagina and then check the quantity and consistency of the cervical fluid present. It is also possible to examine any traces of discharge left on your underwear although this is a less reliable method. This can be checked throughout the day but you should always record the most fertile type of fluid present so as to avoid missing your fertility peak and thus a chance to conceive.
Although the most accurate way to monitor cervical fluid production is internally, this is not a method favoured by everyone as it can be seen as too invasive. However, if you do choose to use this method you should ensure that you have cleaned your hands and nails thoroughly and then insert a finger into your vagina and collect fluid from the cervix itself. This will allow you to get a better feel for the quantity and stretchiness of the fluid present and therefore allow you to get a better understanding of the consistency of cervical fluid throughout your cycle. IT is possible to check the position of your cervix (another fertility indicator) at the same time.
Although the first day of menstruation is considered to be day 1 of a menstrual cycle you should begin to chart cervical fluid on the day after the last day of your period. You should then continue monitoring your fluid everyday until the first day of your next period which signifies the beginning of a new cycle. It is a good idea to make a note of the quantity, consistency (sticky, watery, stretchy) and appearance (cloudy, creamy, clear) of your cervical fluid on a daily basis.
By charting the quantity and consistency of your cervical fluid you should be able to pinpoint your period of peak fertility. Combining this with BBT charting will help to further your understanding of the phases of your menstrual cycle, enabling you to determine the time at which you have the best chances of conceiving.
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