Why Tracking Cervical Mucous is Important for Fertility
Tracking cervical mucous is an age-old conversation and one which I have with my fertility patients every time they come in for a visit. Your cervical mucous changes in texture, volume and colour at different parts of your menstrual cycle and these are important changes to cue into because they can indicate the time in which conception is most probable. This can also help for those of us who would like to be more in tune with our bodies and reproductive health.
But I’m Already Using Ovulation Predictor Kits…
If you are using ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), these can track changes in luteinizing hormone (LH) levels. A surge in LH can indicate that ovulation is about to happen, but it does not indicate that ovulation has truly occurred. This is where either tracking basal body temperature (BBT) or cervical mucous changes can come in handy. BBT typically increases by 0.3-0.6 degrees Celsius on the day of ovulation. Tracking BBT is wonderful but can sometimes become challenging, especially for those who have shift-work, travel frequently, or have trouble sleeping. In these cases, BBT may not be accurate.
What is Cervical Mucous?
Mucous or discharge is something which is produced by the cervix, and fluctuations in estrogen can trigger changes in this mucous to allow sperm easier access to the uterus for fertilization and implantation. From person to person, there can be slight variations in cervical mucous, but the most common could appear anywhere from:
- Drier mucous, thick and white or yellow in colour
- Sticky and thick, white or yellow in colour
- Smooth and thick, usually white
- Slippery, stretchy, often translucent or resembling raw egg whites
- Watery and clear
Which is Fertile Mucous?
The type of mucous which signifies that you are in your window of ovulation is the slippery, raw egg-white mucous. As estrogen rises, this type of mucous can last from one to four days .
Tracking Cervical Mucous
This can be the part which people can be a little squeamish about. You can insert two clean fingers into your vagina and remove some cervical mucous, checking the texture by squeezing your fingers together and then pulling them apart. Another, low maintenance way of doing this is by simply wiping the vaginal area gently with toilet paper before urinating. If there is a slipperiness to the wipe, then you are likely experiencing cervical mucous Double check by looking at the toilet paper or any discharge on your underwear.
The best thing you can do is either use a period tracking app which tracks cervical mucous, such as “Flo App”, or use a hand-written journal to track mucous changes. Using an app, will allow the algorithm to determine when you are most likely to have this fertile cervical mucous so you can time intercourse appropriately. However, it is important to keep in mind that most apps are slightly inaccurate by 1-2 days unless you have a textbook 28-day menstrual cycle. This is why, tracking ovulation via OPKs may also be used in tandem with cervical mucous tracking.
How Accurate is Cervical Mucous?
There can also be some difficulties with cervical mucous tracking, specifically in terms of hydration or lack thereof which can give the appearance of lower volume of mucous. If there is an infection of the vaginal or urinary tract, there can also be foul smelling odour or a difference in colour. The use of lubricants can also alter the ph of the vagina, if not ph-balanced or protected, and this can change the colour, texture and odour of the cervical mucous. Opt for fertility-friendly lubricants such as “Pre-Seed” by First Response to prevent changes in cervical mucous.
Lastly, a past history of birth control usage can affect how “friendly” cervical mucous is to sperm. Being off the birth control pill for more than 3 months had a more positive effect on cervical mucous, than if women had been off the pill for a shorter period of time .
Cervical mucous is not the only form of fertility awareness that you should hang your hat on. There are a multitude of ways to track your fertile window, the most common being OPKs. However, as was previously mentioned, it is always best to couple an OPK with either basal body temperature and/or cervical mucous tracking.
Wishing you all the best on your fertility journey!
- Najmabadi, S., Schliep, K., Simonsen, S.E., Porucznik, C.A., Egger, M.J. & Stanford, J.B. (2021). Cervical mucus patterns and the fertile windown in women without known subfertility: a pooled analysis of three cohorts, Human Reproduction. 36(7), 1784-1795.
- Oster, E. (2013). Expecting better: Why the conventional pregnancy wisdom is wrong and what you really need to know. Penguin Random House.
Dr. Arlene is a board licensed naturopathic doctor, birth doula and breastfeeding expert. After completing her Honours Life Sciences degree at McMaster University, she continued her education at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.
During her years of practice, she has developed a focus in hormonal health, including fertility, preconception care, pregnancy and postpartum. She provides a nurturing, gentle approach to health care using natural therapies including lifestyle, food as medicine, herbal remedies and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Dr. Arlene believes that each person should be allowed to learn more about what their body needs, given their individual circumstances and barriers. Her goal is to have you continue on your health journey with minimal intervention.