Cervical mucus is the key to using and understanding the fertility awareness method. Without cervical mucus you can’t get pregnant (naturally). Cervical mucus is what keeps the sperm alive long enough to fertilize the egg, and without it sperm pretty much die on contact. Many women have seen or felt it before. On those days when you feel really wet and there is that creamy white stuff on your underwear. As a teenage girl I had no idea what that stuff was. I just thought it was gross and started wearing panty liners (and kept wearing them until I learned about the lovely chemicals and bleach that they are treated with).
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to observe changes in your cervical mucus if you are using the pill or any other form of hormonal birth control, but once you go off it can be pretty enlightening.
I’m a bit of a science nerd. I love learning how things work, and when I discovered the fertility awareness method I was pretty amazed. The fertility awareness method is a bit complicated to learn at first, but at the same time, it’s remarkably simple. I was amazed that these changes could be going on in my body every month without my knowledge. Once you get the hang of making the observations it is hard to imagine not knowing what’s going on from day to day with your fertility.
What it boils down to is that women are only fertile for a few days each cycle. The rest of the time it is actually impossible to get pregnant. That’s right…impossible. It’s been proven scientifically, so for the science nerds like me, you can read about it in more depth here and here.
For the majority of the cycle the vagina has an acidic pH level that kills sperm, the opening of the cervix closes and changes position to prevent sperm from entering the uterus, and in addition to that, a mucus plug forms in the opening of the cervix that acts as a barrier to sperm. The mucus plug is made up of a type of cervical mucus referred to as “G” type mucus (gestagen-ic). G mucus acts like a tight mesh that the sperm can’t actually swim through. G mucus also has an acidic pH level that sperm can’t survive in. You won’t see this happening because in a healthy cycle these will be your “dry days”; days without any observable cervical mucus. These are the days when your body is a sperm killing machine!
So for the majority of the cycle, women’s bodies are actively killing sperm. Sperm dies within a few hours because of a) the acidic pH level in the vagina kills them off, b) they can’t swim through the mucus plug in the cervix so they can’t enter the uterus, and c) the mucus plug is acidic too so it also kills them off. Not to mention that ovulation only happens once during the cycle during a 12-24 hr period, so there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize for most of the cycle either.
Vaginas are pretty awesome I must say. Our lady parts are amazing!
With all that said, during the fertile window there is a different type of cervical mucus present referred to as “E” type mucus (estrogenic), and it has pretty much the opposite qualities when compared to the G type mucus. First of all, you can see it. Cervical mucus is produced in the cervix and when it is there it has nowhere to go but down. That means that when cervical mucus is present you will be able to observe it. But making accurate observations involves getting into the habit of checking for mucus regularly. Second, cervical mucus provides the ideal environment for sperm to thrive. It has a sperm friendly pH, and as a result, it changes the pH level of the vagina during the fertile window so that sperm can live long enough to fertilize the egg. Cervical mucus nourishes sperm and keeps them alive for up to 5 or 6 days.
Since the egg only lives for 12-24 hours, in order for us ladies to be able to make babies cervical mucus is needed to extend the fertile window long enough for pregnancy to be possible. Cervical mucus provides a second home for sperm and helps them travel through the cervix and into the fallopian tubes where conception takes place. Cervical mucus is produced as estrogen levels rise before ovulation takes place so that ideally the sperm is already in the fallopian tubes hanging out at the time of ovulation.
Lets break it down: a couple has great sex (yay!). Sperm are released into the vagina. She is fertile, so her cervix is open and producing cervical mucus. This changes the pH of her vagina from acidic to alkaline so her vagina is now sperm friendly. The sperm are kept alive and nourished by cervical mucus, and they swim through the cervix and uterus into the fallopian tubes. This journey can take a day or two and when they reach the fallopian tubes they are waiting for the egg to drop (ovulation). Once the egg drops they all go straight for the egg. Sperm have a special enzyme that weakens and breaks down the cell wall of the egg. Finally at the moment of conception one of the sperm makes it through the barrier and into the egg. This causes a chemical reaction that prevents any other sperm from entering.
Yay for conception! The important point here is that none of this would have happened with out the cervical mucus.
This is why the key to using the fertility awareness method is knowing how to identify the fertile window. Since a woman can only get pregnant during her fertile window if you know how to tell when that is then you can use that information to inform your choices around sex during that time, whether that involves using barrier methods, avoiding sex altogether, having alternate sex practices that don’t involve intercourse or having sex on those days when you’re trying for a baby. Whatever it is, this knowledge gives you those choices.
Most women will want this information at some point in their lives, so why can’t we all have access to this information from a young age? In my perfect world, every girl would be taught this information before her first period. It is simple biology. I learned about my ears and my eyes so why not my female reproductive organs? It’s really a basic bio, and it’s completely ridiculous that this basic information is not ever taught to both men and women. Doctors aren’t even taught this stuff in significant depth. I also have this crazy notion that if more women knew about fertility awareness, and that it can be used as birth control effectively since it’s based on science, that more women would choose to use it for that purpose.
Now I want to hear from you! Have you ever observed your cervical mucus? Can you pinpoint your fertile window? Join the conversation in the comments below!
I couldn’t believe it when I started to look in to trying for a baby that there were literally a few days a month it was possible. Felt like I’d been lied to all my life by someone! Education needs to change!
I completely agree! I felt the same way when I first learned that I wasn’t actually fertile every day!
How to tell if the mucus coming out of the vagina is sperm friendly? And what day of cycle exactly does it happen?
Cervical mucus of a white, lotiony consistency and mucus that is clear and stretchy is sperm friendly. Every woman is different so you have to observe your mucus each day to figure out when it happens for you
Between my period and just before ovulation I do experience a short dry phase, and I can definitely pinpoint an abundance of stretchy mucus before ovulation, but then I keep getting a lot of mucus right up until my next period (no additional dry phase) – which makes it difficult to know when I have actually ovulated and am no longer fertile. In this case would I need to combine temperature taking with mucus checking to know when my fertile phase is over?
When do you pass your mucus? After you ovulate? Probably TMI- but every month I have a bunch of mucus on one day. Does that mean that I’m fertile when it passes- or was fertile a few days before?
When you have mucus you are fertile each day you have mucus and up to 3 days after the last day you observe mucus that is clear, stretchy and slippery.
Hi, I passed a very white strecthy mucas this evening, what I would consider my mucas plug, Does This mean I am in my fertile days now?
All observable mucus is considered fertile so yes!
Hi Lisa, I follow your podcast since already a year and a half and I love them!!
I have mucus every single day of the cycle, no dry days at all. Even my period, which is very light, is extremely strechty and “ewcm”-like. (I am more aware since I bought the diva cup, thank you!). My acupuncturist says it is a sign of stagnation. I checked it on the toilett paper, as a I learnt from your amazing podcasts. There is always something to really pick up (sometimes several times a day), with EWCM even 4-5 days after Ovulation, at the end of LP I have the least but I can still find very clear white lines on my panties and sort of creamy CM. Is that still mucus? Do you know if there is anything I can do?
I have the same problem and actually came to this forum for an answer. I am not actively trying to conceive; however, I am concerned that not having any dry days is unhealthy.
To be honest, I am extremely glad that I came across your post because for years now, I have been ridiculed for having CM.
I tried everything to get rid of it, but I’ve got to say it’s incredibly redeeming to see it confirmed in a post that it’s completely normal.
timbangan digital semarang says
Great blog you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of
any forums that cover the same topics talked about in this
article? I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get suggestions from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest.
If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks!
Fertility Friday says
You can join the Fertility Friday Facebook community using this link: http://fertilityfriday.com/community/
I have PCOS and I have ultrasounds made regularly. They appear to be polycystic without a dominant follicle. But the basal temperatures in my chart pinpointed ovulation the same day the ultrasound was made or some days before. Also I do not have cervical fluid. Is it possible to have ovulation-like temperatures without an actual ovulation?
Fertility Friday says
Hi Virginia, the only time you will see a sustained thermal shift on your chart is after ovulation. Grab a copy of The Fifth Vital Sign for details on how the menstrual cycle works, how to confirm ovulation, and how PCOS shows up in the menstrual cycle. Also have a listen to my PCOS specific podcast episodes here.
I just finished your book and have been enjoying listening to your podcast. I just started really charting and paying attention to mucus. I haven’t been on HC for over 3 years, but I did recently have my copper IUD removed in April. My husband and I started trying right after the removal and I got pregnant and unfortunately miscarried at about 7 weeks. I ended up having to take medication vaginally to expel the products of conception and then about one month later got my period and I have been charting since then. My question is, is it possible to observe fertile mucus and not ovulate? I know for sure I had a solid 5 days of fertile mucus, however my temps did not reflect ovulation and I had been using OPKs since about day 10 and never had a positive. Still haven’t gotten my period again so am holding out hope for a + pregnancy test soon. Thank you for providing all of this information. Honestly I wish I knew this stuff in 7th grade
Fertility Friday says
Hi Alexandra. I’m sorry for your loss. I hope you’re doing alright. It is possible to see mucus as you approach ovulation and not ovulate. This would mean that your ovulation is delayed until your body is ready to complete the process! Have a listen to this episode about OPKs if you haven’t already: http://fertilityfriday.com/149
I came across your podcast a few weeks ago and really enjoy the education you’re providing! I never realized before that I should only be having cervical mucus a few days out of my cycle… I have pretty much always had thick mucus throughout my entire cycle for as long as I can remember so thought it was normal. I’ve noticed lately though that throughout my cycle it gets this yeasty smell, but it’s not actually a yeast infection. I’ve also been exploring the possibility of a thyroid disease… could the cycle-long cervical mucus be an indicator of that?
Fertility Friday says
Hi Anna, If there is a thyroid issue present, you’ll have other thyroid-related symptoms as well as possible changes in mucus. Head over to this page: http://fertilityfriday.com/episodes and search “thyroid” for a complete list of my thyroid-specific podcast episodes!
Do you have recommendations for boosting cervical mucus? I’ve been following the Weston Price diet after learning about it on your podcast. I’ve read b6 can increase CM but feel I already eat a lot of foods with b6 so just looking for your take on the topic! Thanks for the great info!