Cervical mucus is the single most challenging and also the most important aspect of the fertility awareness method. Cervical mucus tells you when you can get pregnant, and it also tells you a lot about your health. It can tell you whether or not you might have a cervical infection, and it can even serve as an early detection tool for cervical cancer.
There are many different methods of the fertility awareness method. Some methods are mucus only where a woman would use her mucus observations to tell when she is fertile or not without checking her temperature or cervical position. Other methods use the sympto-thermal method where a woman checks all 3 signs of her fertility.
But why is cervical mucus so important anyways?
Cervical mucus is amazing. It definitely doesn’t get enough love in my opinion. Did you know that cervical mucus filters out defective sperm so that they don’t make it into a woman’s fallopian tubes and get a shot at fertilizing an egg? Did you know that cervical mucus is the perfect pH for sperm, and not only does it keep sperm alive for 3-5 days, but it also feeds them and gives them energy? But most importantly, did you know that sperm can’t survive in a woman’s body without cervical mucus? Sperm actually die within minutes unless a woman has cervical mucus present.
What is cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus is a hydrogel produced by the cervix . Before a woman ovulates rising estrogen levels trigger her cervix to produce mucus. In a healthy menstrual cycle, a woman will notice that her mucus changes from a white/lotiony type consistency to a clear, stretchy consistency like that of egg whites. She’ll notice a slippery sensation when she goes to the bathroom or she might just feel wet throughout the day.
Unfortunately, many women don’t know that cervical mucus is a normal and healthy part of the menstrual cycle. I’ve spoken to countless women who thought that there was something wrong with them and ended up in a doctor’s office every month thinking they had a yeast infection or some abnormal bacterial overgrowth. Since many of their doctors didn’t know that cervical mucus was normal either, they would often end up getting tests that would keep coming back normal.
How do I check for cervical mucus?
Many women first learn about fertility awareness through a few great books on the topic. Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, and Garden of Fertility by Katie Singer, are two of the most common resources. Although some methods of fertility awareness will encourage you to check internally for cervical mucus (i.e. placing your finger inside your vagina and trying to observe cervical mucus from the source), this method often leads to confusion. Many fertility awareness instructors teach how to check externally for two important reasons.
- When you check externally it is easy to identify the difference between a “dry” day and a “mucus” day.
- When you check externally it is actually possible to tell the difference between vaginal cell slough and cervical mucus
Many women who use the fertility awareness method often feel that if they don’t check internally they won’t see anything. But the thing is, that your vagina is always moist, and when you check internally you’ll always find something. This will often leave you thinking you have mucus every day and overestimating the number of days in your fertile window. When you’re in your fertile window and your cervix is producing mucus it has to come out, and you’ll be able to see it at her vulva. It’s gravity! But you will have to actually check for mucus throughout the day to see it.
Here are the steps for checking mucus externally…
- Use a piece of toilet paper folded flat
- As you wipe pay attention to the sensation you feel. Does it feel dry, smooth, or slippery?
- Look at your toilet paper…do you see any mucus you can pick up?
- If you have mucus pick it up and see if it stretches between your fingers
- Then mark down what you see! 
Pretty simple I know. The most important part is to get in the habit of checking for mucus throughout the day. Whenever you go to the bathroom before you take a bath before you go to bed…basically whenever your pants are down. This is where learning from a certified fertility awareness instructor comes in handy. To get the full effectiveness of the fertility awareness method, it is best to learn from an instructor so that you can gain confidence in using the method correctly, and get your head around this whole cervical mucus thing once and for all!
What else do I need to know about cervical mucus?
Well, you might not see any “egg white mucus”. Many women now think that egg white quality mucus is the “gold standard”, but many women will experience a wet sensation and have slippery mucus that just doesn’t stretch. Wet slippery mucus is definitely fertile, it just has such a high water content that it doesn’t stretch. Other women may not produce cervical mucus at all and this can be for a variety of reasons. In a healthy cycle, a woman would expect to see at least one day of clear, stretchy or slippery mucus. If she has no mucus that is definitely an indication of suboptimal fertility because it can interfere with her ability to conceive.
Whether mucus is “creamy” “sticky” or “egg white” it is all fertile. There is no such thing as “less fertile” and “more fertile mucus”. It would be kind of like saying a woman is “less pregnant” or “more pregnant”. Since sperm can survive in all cervical mucus, all mucus is considered to be fertile!
With that being said, if you are trying to get pregnant the best time to have sex with your partner is on the days that you have clear, stretchy and slippery (lubricative) mucus! Clear, stretchy and slippery mucus tells you that your estrogen levels are high and that your body is gearing up for ovulation. So forget the ovulation predictor kits, and have sex when you see mucus!
Now I want to hear from you! Have you seen your cervical mucus before? How do you check for mucus? Join the conversation in the comments below!
1. Morphological characterization of different human cervical mucus types using light and scanning electron microscopy. Human Reproduction, Oxford Journal
2. The Fifth Vital Sign: Master Your Cycles & Optimize Your Fertility. Lisa Hendrickson-Jack