Cervical fluid may seem like a random, and sometimes inconvenient, occurrence. You may only notice it by the discharge in your underwear. Or, if you practice any fertility awareness method, you monitor it regularly.
What you may not know is that cervical fluid—also known as cervical mucus—is an important part of your monthly cycle and a key indicator of your fertility. Let’s talk about the why and the how, but first, the what.
What is cervical fluid?
Cervical fluid (CF) is a mucus produced by the cervix. The cervix sits at the neck of the uterus, and controls the opening into the vagina. When you are fertile (during and around the time of ovulation, typically occurring between days 12 and 18 of the cycle), the cervix opens to enable sperm to move up through the vagina into the uterus and up into the fallopian tubes. It also actually moves up in your body during your fertile window. During infertile periods in your cycle, the cervix sits firm, closed, and lower in your vagina.
The stimulation of different hormones throughout your cycle also causes the cervix to produce different types of CF in different amounts.
Types of cervical fluid
Different fertility awareness methods use different names and category breakdowns, but they all essentially describe the same things. Whichever method and terminology you choose to use is a matter of personal preference. (If you do not practice a fertility awareness method
For the sake of this article, I will use the descriptions from Toni Weschler, MPH‘s book Taking Charge Of Your Fertility.
…is the term to indicate a lack of cervical fluid.
…cervical fluid may vary from dry and pasty to tacky. Sticky CF is white, cloudy or opaque in color, a slight yellow hue may also occur.
…cervical fluid is wetter than sticky CF, with a creamy to lotion texture. It may be clumpy or form mounds. Creamy CF may be white or opaque in color.
…cervical fluid has a higher water content than the other types and is very lubricative in nature. It may be clear or slightly cloudy. It is slippery and will stretch. This CF type is the most fertile.
Fertile-quality CF is important to your overall fertility because it helps to provide an alkaline environment for the sperm, which could not survive in the otherwise acidic vagina. It also contains channels that enable the sperm to move quickly upwards towards the egg.
Infertile CF, on the other hand, actually acts as a filter to keep particles such as bacteria, and sometimes sperm, from progressing up towards the uterus.
It may take some time to learn how to observe and distinguish between the different types of CF. The best place to start is to run a clean piece of bath tissue across the opening of the vagina (always front to back) both before and after you go to the bathroom. Any present CF should come off onto the tissue for you to observe.
Cervical fluid throughout the cycle
In a healthy natural cycle a typical CF pattern looks similar to this:
After the bleeding days that mark the beginning of a new cycle (menstrual phase, typically day 1 to 5), there are a few dry days as estrogen levels begin to increase. Rising estrogen levels stimulate the cervix to start to produce CF. As estrogen levels grow (follicular phase, typically day 6 to 13), the CF begins to become more detectable, and to grow in moisture content. A few dry or pasty days might be followed by creamy CF (though not all women experience this variant), and then prior to ovulation, slippery or egg white CF occurs.
Once ovulation occurs (ovulation phase, typically at or around day 14), the ovaries stop producing estrogen in high levels and begin to produce progesterone instead. Progesterone causes CF to dry up. Some women may experience a few days of pasty CF throughout the second half of the cycle (luteal phase, typically day 15 to 28).
While most women will experience something that resembles this pattern, not all women will. The most important thing is to establish what your own unique CF and cycle pattern is. Please note this only applies to women who are cycling naturally and not using a method of hormonal birth control.
Why follow your CF?
Knowing your CF pattern can help you to identify changes in fertility, potential infections, hormone imbalances and non-ovulatory cycles. Changes to your CF pattern, including changes in color, frequency and odor may help you to detect vaginal infections before symptoms progress.
If your unique pattern varies from the described pattern extensively, it may be indicative of a hormonal imbalance or nonovulatory cycles. If you rarely observe any cervical fluid, cannot identify any slippery or egg white CF, or experience slippery or egg white CF multiple times during a long cycle (40 days or more), you might consider discussing your health and fertility with a doctor to make sure everything is OK. Consistent and unchanging vaginal discharge could be a sign of infection.
If you choose to observe your CF in order to practice fertility awareness for birth control purposes, be sure that whichever method you use does not attempt to predict what will happen in the current cycle based on past cycles (like the often-cited and ineffective “Rhythm” method—different from the fertility awareness method). While you will find a consistent pattern to your personal cycle, each cycle can vary and things like stress and illness can cause one cycle to differ drastically from the previous one.
I suggest finding a FAM specialist to learn how to effectively track your cycle for birth control purposes. FEMM (including their app), Hannah Ransom, and The Association of Fertility Awareness Professionals are all great resources. Taking Charge Of Your Fertility, the book referenced above is also a must-have resource!
Working with a fertility awareness method (FAM) specialist can also help you to make sure that you are observing your CF correctly and not missing anything.
Whether or not you choose to monitor your cervical fluid as part of your birth control regimen, being more aware of your unique CF pattern will help you to take more active stewardship over your health and fertility!
Kara Ferreira is a fertility health expert who works with women to troubleshoot their monthly cycles and digestion so that they can feel their best and be their best selves. Read her full bio here.
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