Cervical mucus changes throughout the menstrual cycle

When monitoring the cervical mucus symptom, it is necessary to be aware of the sensation that you feel at the vulva and the cervical mucus that you can see.

Sensation

Some words to describe these different feelings are:

  • Dry
  • Wet
  • Slippery
  • Damp

Fertile mucus can often be felt like the sensation you feel as you notice your period has started.

Appearance

This is best monitored by looking at the toilet paper before and after urinating each time you go to the toilet. Fertile mucus will often look clear and be quite stretchy, it is often described as raw egg white. Infertile mucus may have a thicker appearance and can appear absent, gluggy or claggy. It is often white or yellowish in colour.

It is important to note that not all women experience the fertile mucus symptom. It is common after coming off the pill, breastfeeding or approaching menopause to have unreliable mucus symptoms. There are also several gynaecological disorders that can make mucus symptoms quite difficult to interpret. For some women it is just normal for them to have little mucus and so is difficult to see.

Some words to describe mucus appearance:

  • Stretchy
  • Clear
  • White
  • Yellow
  • Gluggy
  • Flakey

Things that interfere with mucus observation

Intercourse with or without ejaculation

  • You can’t tell the difference between seminal fluid, lubricating vaginal mucus and fertile cervical mucus.

Medications

There are certain medications that can change cervical mucus, these include:

  • Any antihistamine: these can dry up mucus
  • Bisolven: rather than drying up mucus, it liquefies it
  • Some antidepressants
  • Herbal medicines, golden seal and horseradish; these are commonly used as cold and flu remedies
  • High doses of the acidic form of vitamin C ascorbic acid
  • Prescription antibiotics

These drugs will also reduce fertility because they interfere with healthy cervical mucus.


Health

There are some health conditions that can affect the mucus pattern also, making it quite difficult to use mucus as a fertility sign. These conditions may also affect your chances of achieving a pregnancy.

These include:

  • Poly-cystic ovarian syndrome
  • Menopause
  • Coming off the pill
  • Breastfeeding
  • Infections such as thrush, vaginitis
  • Nutrient deficiencies especially zinc, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and Iron

What if I have trouble identifying my mucus patterns?

You can use the cervix changes as a double check for approaching fertility or you can go searching for mucus.

Changes at the cervix

Around the time of ovulation the cervix moves higher up in the vagina, becomes more upright, feels soft to touch, it can open a little and it feels very moist from cervical mucus.

Pre and post ovulatory the cervix sits low in the vagina, feels firm, is closed and is tilted.

These signs are quite pronounced and can be a very good indicator for predicting ovulation, although it can take several months of daily examination to get to know these signs well.

Some women also find that the cervix goes higher in the vagina, feels open and points down just before the period begins. You will know if this is a sign of an approaching period or approaching fertility if you have recorded a temperature shift earlier in the cycle.

Self examination of the cervix

This is easiest to carry out sitting on the toilet or standing with one leg raised and resting on the bath, a chair or the bed. Squatting has also been recommended as a good position.

It is really important to always use the same position to examine the cervix. Many women find that it is easiest to check while on the toilet either first thing in the morning or right before bed.

It is a simple matter of inserting a finger into the vagina and feeling for the position, the tilt and whether the opening feels soft and open or hard and closed tight. With a bit of practice most women find it pretty easy.

Searching for mucus

Some women find it helpful to insert a finger and try to scoop cervical mucus out to examine it. Most women won’t need to do this but if you have very little mucus it is an option. If you still have trouble finding mucus another option is to give the cervix a little squeeze. This will cause the cervix to discharge a little mucus and allow you to asses the colour, stretchiness and consistency.

This is not recommended by Billings or Natural Family Planning teachers as there is some concern that the normal moist environment of the vagina can be confused for mucus. I believe that once you’ve had a bit of practice and observed your body over a couple of cycles you’ll know the difference. If you do find you have trouble telling the difference you can test to see if it is water soluble or not. Get yourself a glass of water and collect some mucus on your finger. If it is cervical mucus it will form a blob and sink to the bottom, if it is a vaginal secretion it will dissolve.