Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.
Written on: 1/17/22
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Have you ever been confused by vaginal discharge? Maybe you were worried you had an infection or something wasn’t right. Then, just like that, it’s gone again?
If that sounds familiar, it is likely that nothing is wrong with you. In fact…Congratulations! You’ve just noticed the golden nectar of your fertility: cervical fluid.
What is cervical fluid?
Cervical fluid, often known as cervical mucus, is a hydrogel produced by the cervix. It contains mucus molecules, protein chains, minerals, and water – lots of it. When combined, this allows the vaginal fluids to form a unique electrolyte structure that changes throughout the menstrual cycle.
During the first half of the cycle, rising estrogen levels cause the glands of the cervix to secrete fluid. The consistency and color of cervical fluid varies — from clear to watery, for example. When observed, it could look like raw egg white or sticky like glue stuck on your underwear. This is all healthy, normal, and a key sign to unlocking your fertility.
In a healthy cycle, you will likely start to notice cervical fluid for an average of 5 days before ovulation. The cervical mucus before ovulation is typically watery and often has a raw egg white type consistency at peak fertility.
After ovulation occurs, your body will start to release the hormone progesterone, causing the mucus to thicken and form a “barrier” of sorts. From the outside, it will seem like the “water dried up”, in a sense, as discharge turns to white and lotion-like as it dissipates.
The barrier created by the change in cervical mucus stops sperm (and any foreign substance) from getting through the uterus. Your cervix will stay closed off until your period arrives and the whole cycle starts again. Voila!
Note that other fluid patterns are possible, particularly if you are experiencing changes in your cycle patterns due to stress, intake of hormonal birth control or other medications, hormonal issues such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), breastfeeding, or perimenopause.
Is cervical fluid really worth monitoring?
Did you know that ovulation only happens within one day in the entire cycle and, once the egg is released from the ovary, it only has 12 to 24 hours to be fertilized? With such a short ovulation period, it makes it all the more important to be monitoring the telltale signs of fertility.
Thankfully, due to the nourishing qualities of cervical fluid, we’re fertile for longer than 24 hours. Cervical fluid extends that small window of fertility to approximately 6 days of your cycle. With the help of cervical fluid, sperm can be kept alive for up to an incredible 5 days!
Contrary to popular belief, a woman is not always fertile. Outside of this 6 day fertile window, pregnancy is not possible. Cervical fluid plays a critical role in fertility and pregnancy because sperm cannot survive in the vagina unless cervical fluid is present.
Here’s 3 ways cervical fluid and sperm interact:
Cervical fluid makes the vagina a sperm-friendly place
Naturally, the vagina is a hostile place for sperm due to its acidity (pH 4.5). Semen can only live in a milder pH between 7.2 and 8.4, which is a more basic environment. An acidic vaginal environment is helpful for killing harmful bacteria and preventing infections, but it also prevents sperm from swimming up the reproductive tract. Once you enter your fertile window, the cervical fluid changes the pH to 7.9 which is more alkaline, or non-acidic, and actually helps keep the sperm alive.
Cervical fluid provides the necessary nutrients and energy for sperm to meet the egg
Cervical fluid has high water content, often exceeding 96% water. With the help of cervical fluid and it’s high water content, often exceeding 96% water (Katz et al., 1997), the pathway to fertilize an egg is more accessible. Imagine going down the water slide with no water flowing. Ouch.
More amazingly, cervical fluid is rich with nutrients that the spermatozoa need to stay alive and have the energy to keep those tails swimming!
Pro tip: If you’re trying to conceive: sex on the day of maximal cervical fluid stretch (aka hydration) is most likely to be successful in timing intercourse for achieving pregnancy. This is even more accurate than using temperature shifts (which occur after ovulation), the calendar method or at times, ovulation prediction kits.
Filters out abnormal sperm
When it comes to the 180 million sperm released in an ejaculate, it means survival of the fittest!
Doesn’t this make sense? We don’t want just any weak sperm reaching that one precious egg.
Sperm with curved, irregular, or otherwise awkward swimming patterns who enter will find themselves pretty much stuck.
Most of the tens of millions of tiny swimmers don’t make it pass the uterus and into the fallopian tubes (1). It takes 5 to 68 minutes for the sperm to get to the point where they need to go to fertilize the egg. The journey is long and complex, many sperm die along the way, some sperm are mutated or abnormal (like having 2 heads and maybe abnormal genetic material).
Why don’t they make it? It’s not just the long journey but it is (you guessed it) the cervical fluid! Cervical fluid, in the fertile window, actually forms channels that the sperm have to navigate through.
These cervical fluid channels help to filter out the bad sperm (like the sperm with two heads and poor genetic content, for example). How amazing is that?
Cervical fluid, in the fertile window, actually forms channels that the sperm have to navigate through.
Benefits of tracking your cervical fluid
According to one study, only 12.7% of people seeking fertility treatment can accurately identify their fertile window. With the knowledge you gain from tracking cervical fluid, you can proactively take charge of your reproductive health with less dependency on medical intervention.
Cervical fluid can allow you to identify:
- When you’ve entered your fertile window
- When you’ve exited it
- Peak fertile days so that you can optimize your chances of conception.
Now that you know the power of cervical fluid, it is time to get to tracking it! Instead of measuring qualitative observations, such as “sticky” or “egg-white cervical mucus”, kegg detects the electrolytes in the cervical fluid which shift in correlation to the changing hormones. The kegg readings form a valley during the fertile window of the cycle allowing us to see the full fertile window unfold in real-time. As estrogen rises and the cervical fluid becomes hospitable to sperm, the kegg readings descend on the y-axis.
After ovulation, the shift to progesterone dominance results in a rise in kegg readings. This window into the inner workings of the hormonal changes allows kegg users to be fully aware of their full fertile window in order to maximize their chances of conception. In addition, since conception is most likely to result from sperm 2 to 3 days before ovulation, kegg users benefit from a greater awareness of their overall fertility throughout each cycle.
In addition, since conception is most likely to result from sperm 2 to 3 days before ovulation, kegg users benefit from a greater awareness of their overall fertility throughout each cycle.
How kegg and Proov work together
Together, you can use kegg to predict your fertile window and Proov Confirm to check for successful ovulation to help you get pregnant faster! Kegg monitors your cervical mucus to accurately identify your fertile window and peak fertility.
Then, once you’ve observed peak fertility with kegg, you can then confirm that you ovulated and it was a successful ovulation with Proov Confirm. Successful ovulation refers to an ovulatory event in which ovulation occurred and PdG (progesterone marker) levels remained elevated for long enough to allow for a higher chance at successful pregnancy.
(1) Hilgers, Thomas W. (2004). The Medical & Surgical Practice of NaProTechnology. Omaha, NE: Pope Paul VI Institute Press, 185-186.