Let's Talk About Cervical Fluid
When tracking your cycle there are several different ways to determine the four different phases and when you're ovulating. Charting Basal Body Temperature (BBT) and using Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) are two popular methods, and observing changes to cervical fluid is another.
Your cervix produces fluid, sometimes called mucus, in response to the hormonal changes that happen throughout your cycle. That's why it's so effective at telling you what's going on with your hormones and why I often recommend my patients start paying attention to it. I'll explain how.
How to check cervical fluid
You can observe cervical fluid by inserting a finger into your vagina and looking at it on your finger, also by checking your underwear to see what the pattern looks like.
Look for the egg white
At ovulation there are two key hormones that peak, luteinizing hormone and estrogen. This combo signals the cervix to produce sticky clear fluid that closely resembles the texture and look of raw egg white. If you get some egg white on between your fingers it is really slippery and usually stretches a few inches apart. In your underwear it might look like a blob of clear white glue.
This protein-rich, pH-perfect mix is the most hospitable to sperm because it helps it to swim into the uterus and keeps it alive longer than any other time in the cycle. In fact, leading up to ovulation sperm can survive in the body up to 5 days.
Maximum egg white production might only happen for you on the day of ovulation or 1-3 days prior, it depends on your unique pattern. So using other methods (such as BBT charting or OPKs) to get a more accurate reading of when you're actually ovulating is a good idea, at least until you better know your cycle.
Dry, Sticky, Creamy & Watery
These are the other phases of cervical fluid that occur throughout the cycle, they give a lot of other important cycle information.
- Dry/None: there's not much going on at all and nothing in your underwear. This usually happens for a few days after menstruation and can happen again after ovulation in the luteal phase.
- Sticky: this can also feel like not much is going on, but there's a bit of sticky discharge that may be gummy or pasty. This is a sign that your body is getting geared up for ovulation, it's not yet peak fertile fluid, but it's getting close. Sometimes this texture can also be observed after ovulation, in the luteal phase as peak fertile fluid is winding down.
- Creamy: very similar to the texture of hand lotion, this stage of cervical fluid can leave a diamond shaped deposit in your underwear. This is like sticky cervical fluid plus some extra moisture, it's a sign that your estrogen levels are rising and egg white is just around the corner.
- Watery: wet, clear and slippery like egg white, but it's much looser. In fact, watery cervical fluid can feel like water flowing out of your vagina and leave a small puddle in your underwear, some women mistake this sensation for starting their period. Watery cervical fluid is egg white with extra moisture, so it's also a sign of ovulation/peak fertility. Some women only see egg white and don't get to the watery stage.
Not seeing or feeling anything?
When I talk about cervical fluid with my patients some of them look at me quizzically, like they truly have no idea what I'm talking about. And believe it or not, even that can be a sign of what is going on with your hormones.
Because cervical fluid is produced in response to hormones released at ovulation, particularly estrogen, it may signal that either estrogen levels are low (more common cause) or that ovulation isn't even happening (less common cause.) In this case, charting BBT and using OPKs can be really helpful to get even more information about your cycle and ovulation patterns.
If you feel vaginal dryness that causes discomfort or pain, that can also be caused by estrogen deficiency, as well as a few other reasons. Take a look at another article of mine: Let's Talk About Vaginal Dryness.
Thick, chunky, yellow, or stinky discharge isn't considered to be cervical fluid, it can be a sign of infection - either bacterial or yeast. Especially if discharge is copious and/or you have itching, get to a doctor to get a culture done.
Even if these symptoms are mild but they've been going on for more than a week or two, it's may still be something worth getting checked out. Chronic infections, even mild ones, can have an effect on fertility.