Slippery, clear, stretchy. Raw egg white. EWCM.
Maybe you know what these terms are referring to, - or maybe you don’t. Either way, you ought to read on because we’re talking cervical mucus in this post!
The Importance of Vaginal Discharge and Conception
Before we get into the characteristics of cervical mucus, there a few biological facts that are important to keep in mind:
- The cervix (i.e. where this mucus comes from) is the opening to your uterus. It is a canal, or passageway, just like the vagina.
- Vaginal discharge is anything that leaves your vagina. It can be cervical mucus, seminal fluid from recent intercourse, or even blood. Cervical mucus and vaginal discharge can be observed and tracked using the same language but it’s important to remember that they come from different parts of your body and have different significance.
Changes in cervical mucus correspond to changes in estrogen levels secreted from the follicles in your ovaries. This was determined by several scientists in the 50s and 60s, including Dr. James Brown who looked at over 800,000 assays to confirm the connection.
Okay, so now we’ve got a pretty good lead up to why cervical mucus is probably good to pay attention to if your goal is conception.
Conception, of course, is the joining of sperm and egg to create unique human life. Sperm swim and need something fluid in order to do their thing. Cervical mucus is a hydrogel, meaning it contains water and some protein structures called mucins that happen to be very suitable for sperm swimming…at certain times in the female cycle…
Going back to point #3 above, if your follicles are growing, indeed competing to see who’s going to dominate and get to release their egg, they are secreting more and more estrogen. Growing follicles, more estrogen. Cool connection, right?
The cells in the cervical canal are highly specialized to respond to changes in estrogen levels and healthy cervical cells will respond to increasing estrogen levels by making a mucus that is increasingly hospitable to sperm. Basically, if your cervix is in good shape, when you are approaching ovulation it will do what it can to help sperm get to any egg that might be waiting in the Fallopian tube.
While it’s not the only thing that’s important for conception, awareness of high fertility cervical mucus helps couples have intercourse at the right time to maximize their chances of conception. After all, healthy women are designed to be fertile an average of 6 to 10 days per cycle regardless of cycle length.
In regular length cycles that are about 28 to 30 days long, that roughly translates into a 25 to 30 percent chance of conception in any given cycle. This is the natural probability of conception with regular, unprotected intercourse. Timing intercourse according to good cervical mucus as a one possible strategy to maximize chance of conception.
What should cervical mucus look like before and during ovulation?
This is going to be different for each woman. Actually, in the same woman, it may even be different from cycle to cycle, especially if something unusual happened during the cycle.
With daily observations and tracking, it’s still possible to identify patterns of possible fertility and infertility within each cycle using cervical mucus.
A typical pattern of cervical mucus before ovulation (i.e. 3 to 5 days before) will be changing and developing as opposed to the same old stuff that may correspond to your baseline level of estrogen. Change and development occurs in either or both the sensation or “feel” of the cervical mucus on the outside of your vagina as well as the appearance or what you see when wiping.
Sensation and appearance are the two things you pay attention to when “looking” at your cervical mucus. Fun fact: Even blind women can observe cervical mucus based on the sensation or “feel” of the mucus on the outside of their vaginas.
You check or observe cervical mucus on the outside of your body by paying attention to any sensations at the vulva and any visible discharge as you go about your day. Nothing invasive or terribly complicated needs to be done to observe cervical mucus. All observations are external, no fingers or anything go inside your body.
A certified fertility awareness or natural family planning instructor can help you make accurate observations of your cervical mucus and other signs of your fertility.
1. Discharge May Be a Sign that Ovulation is Approaching - which is a great time to have sex!
Remember: Discharge is anything that leaves the vagina, including cervical mucus as well as seminal fluid, blood or even stuff that could mean a yeast infection.
To be sure that the discharge is a sign of approaching ovulation, have your cervical mucus chart reviewed by a certified fertility awareness or natural family planning instructor. But, yes, it could be a good (or great) time to have sex or inseminate.
2. Increasing Discharge Could Also Increase Fertility
Specifically, changing and developing cervical mucus could mean increasing fertility.
3. As Estrogen Rises, Increased Cervical Mucus Makes it Easier for Sperm to Swim to the Egg
If there’s one thing you remember from this blog post, it’s that your cervical mucus can be a great sign that you are healthy and ovulating. The biological connection between rising estrogen from developing ovarian follicles and increasingly slippery, clear, or stretchy cervical mucus is well established.
Our bodies are very logical. If there’s soon going to be an egg for sperm to join with, our cervix will naturally make it easier for that to happen because, well, that’s the natural goal of the reproductive system!
4. Changes in Cervical Mucus Could Be a Sign of Early Pregnancy
In early pregnancy we have a sustained rise in progesterone levels. Just like estrogen, progesterone talks to the cells in the cervix only with progesterone the message is: “Thicken up, block entry.” Again, this is the beautiful logic of the body. In early pregnancy there is a vulnerable new life that your body is going to try to protect.
As the opening to the womb, the cervix will “seal up” during the start of pregnancy and the woman may observe a dryness or thicker discharge on the outside of her vagina.
If you’re curious about how your cervical mucus is changing throughout your cycle along with your hormones, try Proov Complete! You’ll receive a full-cycle hormone analysis.