Fertile discharge: Cervical mucus timeline
One method of fertility monitoring uses changes in cervical mucus to predict ovulation.
When a person is fertile, the cervical fluid is watery, thin, and slippery, and it may appear similar to an egg white.
What is cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus is fluid that the cervix releases into the vagina. It has several functions, including keeping the vagina lubricated and preventing infection.
Throughout the menstrual cycle, hormonal shifts influence the amount, texture, and appearance of cervical mucus.
There may be enough mucus for a person to notice it in their underwear. Although the cervix always produces some mucus, it makes more right before and after ovulation.
So, if a person notices an increase in vaginal discharge, they may be seeing fertile cervical mucus.
Fertile cervical fluid is a good signal of increased fertility. Anyone trying to get pregnant should have intercourse during the time when they notice the fertile discharge. Doctors call this the “fertile window.”
An egg only lives 12–24 hours after ovulation, but sperm can live much longer, often 3–5 days in fertile cervical fluid.
This means that, for people wishing to become pregnant, the best time to have intercourse is right before ovulation, as sperm can live in the reproductive tract for several days. If they are already there when ovulation occurs, they can immediately fertilize the egg.
How to check
To determine fertility, check the appearance of cervical fluid at least once a day, beginning on the first day after a period.
It can help to keep track of daily changes in a diary or to use a monitoring app.
To check for cervical fluid:
Several factors can influence the way that cervical fluid looks, which is why a person should monitor the appearance and consistency over time, to get a sense of what is normal for them.
Some people find that their cervical fluid looks different after sex. For example, when semen mixes with vaginal fluids, this can change the appearance of vaginal discharge. Soap, lubricants, and other products that can also result in changes.
Some people produce less fertile cervical mucus, so they may not notice it.
Others produce no fertile cervical mucus, and this indicates a problem with ovulation. Some medical conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, make ovulation less likely. Being underweight can also cause the body not to ovulate.
As a person approaches menopause, they may ovulate less frequently. Some people run out of eggs early, which a doctor would diagnose as a decreased ovarian reserve. This can cause a person to ovulate irregularly, if at all.
Keeping track of the appearance and consistency of cervical fluid can help a person determine when they are fertile.
This method is most reliable when a person has monitored changes in fluid for several cycles. When it comes to cervical fluid, everyone has a different “normal.” A person who knows their usual pattern can more easily spot signs that they are about to ovulate.
Many people also use other methods of tracking fertility, such as basal body temperature monitoring and ovulation testing. A combination of approaches can provide more certainty about ovulation.
It is important to note that having fertile cervical fluid is not a sure sign of fertility.
The body may release high levels of estrogen, even though a person does not ovulate. However, in general, if a person does not ovulate, they are much less likely to have fertile cervical fluid.
While home methods of monitoring ovulation may help, the only way to verify ovulation is to see a doctor or midwife.
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