What is it?
Cervical fluid is produced by glands in the cervix (within your cervical canal). During your cycle, the quantity and the consistency (texture and appearance) of cervical fluid changes - this is due to hormone fluctuations. As you approach ovulation, estrogen increases and you begin to produce the most fertile type of cervical fluid. You are considered most fertile when the fluid becomes clear, slippery and stretchy (often compared to raw egg whites).
Fertile-quality cervical fluid supports conception by providing a healthy medium in which sperm can survive and propel themselves. Fertile cervical fluid protects sperm from the naturally-acidic environment of the vagina and helps sperm to move through the cervix into the uterus. Paying close attention to the changes will help you time intercourse correctly and you can begin to understand your own fertility patterns.
What can it tell me about my fertility or ovulation?
Fertile-quality cervical fluid can help indentify when ovulation may be approaching. This is important when timing intercourse.
What is the "typical/ideal" pattern?
The most common cervical fluid pattern is as follows:
- The first few days following your period there will be little or no fluid. You will feel dry. There is little chance of pregnancy during this time.
- Next cervical fluid gets moist and sticky and may be white or cream in colour. There may be a small chance of becoming pregnant during this time.
- Your cervical fluid will next turn creamy, somewhat like hand lotion and be white or yellow or cloudy. It may stretch slightly but not very much and break easily.
- As ovulation approaches your cervical fluid will become watery and greater in volume. It is likely to be clear and may be stretchy. Consider yourself fertile when you see this type of cervical fluid.
- As ovulation gets even closer your cervical fluid becomes most like eggwhite. This is your most fertile cervical fluid. It will likely be clear (or tinged with white) and very stretchy. The amount of this fluid will steadily increase until ovulation occurs.
- After ovulation, there is a marked change in fluid appearance and quantity. It tends to become sticky (does not stretch) and there is a feeling of dryness.
How Do I Check Cervical Fluid?
The easiest way to check your cervical fluid is to make your observations when you go to the bathroom. You can simply use toilet paper and wipe the entrance of your vagina. (You may also notice some cervical fluid in your underwear) After several cycles you will likely become quite familiar with the variations in your cervical fluid and how to indentify each. If you don't find much fluid externally you can also collect your cervical fluid internally by inserting your clean finger into your vagina and circle your finger around your cervix (or as close as possible).
How Do I Chart Cervical Fluid?
You may find you have several different types of cervical fluid in one day. In this case always record the most fertile cervical fluid. This ensures that you do not miss a potentially fertile day. Remember that not every woman experiences every type of cervical fluid.
- Dry (X) - If you do not have any cervical fluid present. (No cervical fluid in your underwear and/or the outside of your vagina feels dry) You will likely experience dry days after your period and after ovulation has occurred.
- Sticky (S) - If cervical fluid is sticky or tacky; is glue-like, stiff or crumbles; if it breaks easily and is not stretchy. It will likely be yellow or white, or could be cloudy or clear. You may experience sticky cervical fluid before and after ovulation.
- Creamy (C) - If your cervical fluid is similar to hand lotion (white, yellow or cloudy/clear). It may stretch slightly but will break easily. You may experience creamy cervical fluid before and after ovulation.
- Watery (W) - If your cervical fluid is clear and like water. It may be slightly stretchy. This cervical fluid is considered fertile. (This may be your most fertile cervical fluid as some women do not get "eggwhite" cervical fluid) You will most often see this type before you get eggwhite cervical fluid prior to ovulation.
- Eggwhite (E) - This is considered the most fertile cervical fluid. If your cervical fluid resembles eggwhite. It will be very stretchy and usually clear (but may be tinged with white or even pink) You will be able to stretch this type of cervical fluid between your thumb and index finger.
- Spotting (♦) - If you have any pink, red, dark red or brown discharge. It may mark your underwear or a liner or you may only see it when you wipe. If it is only spotting and does not require a pad or tampon, record it as spotting and not your period. Spotting may occur just before your period or after your period ends. It may also occur around ovulation or even around the time of implantation if you have conceived. Only start a new cycle if you true period has started (full red flow).
- Period (L,M,H) - Light, Medium (normal) or Heavy. Be sure to always start a new cycle on the first day of your period (the first day that you have full red flow that requires a pad or tampon) This first day is considered Cycle Day 1.
Multiple Patches of Egg White Cervical Fluid or Egg White Cervical Fluid after Ovulation
You probably know that egg white looking cervical fluid is a good indicator of impending ovulation. But, what if you notice egg white cervical fluid (EWCM) after your chart shows that you have ovulated.
What does this mean?
There are several possibilities. It is possible to have EWCM after you ovulate. The hormone estrogen is involved in the production of EWCM. As your estrogen levels increase before ovulation, you will notice an increase in cervical fluid. Egg white looking fluid is a very good sign of higher fertility. When you start to see EWCM you should consider yourself fertile and plan intercourse during this time if you are trying to conceive.
EWCM and Estrogen
EWCM is produced as a response to increases in estrogen levels. Some women will experience another rise in estrogen levels about a week after ovulation, but the increase is not quite as high as what occurs just prior to and during ovulation. Both estrogen and progesterone levels increase during this time to help prepare the lining of your uterus for implantation. During the secondary rise in estrogen you may notice a second patch of EWCM. Not every woman will experience this but it is not considered unusual.
Towards the end of your cycle, if you are not pregnant, progesterone plummets and estrogen rises. This may bring on a couple days of EWCM. You may notice that it correlates with a drop in your basal body temperature.
EWCM and Delayed Ovulation
Another possibility is that your ovulation was delayed for some reason. It is possible for your body to prepare to ovulate and then not ovulate. Some women will have an increase in LH (Luteinizing Hormone) which will show up as a positive ovulation test and have fertile cervical fluid (which would indicate impending ovulation), but then due to stress, illness or some other factors, not actually ovulate. If you do not see a clear thermal shift on your chart or you are not completely sure if you have ovulated, it is always best to consider this type of cervical fluid a sign of high fertility. You should plan intercourse whenever you see this type of fluid to help ensure your best chances of conception.
EWCM and Anovulatory Cycles
If you are noticing multiple patches of EWCM but your temperatures do not show a clear thermal shift, you may be having anovulatory cycles. This means that your body may be trying to ovulate, which is why you are seeing the multiple patches of EWCM, but for some reason you are not actually ovulating. During a "typical" ovulation chart you will see EWCM followed by a temperature shift and a drying up of cervical fluid following ovulation. You will usually feel dry after you ovulate (this is one way to confirm that ovulation has occurred). If you are having patches of fertile cervical fluid but you are not seeing a clear biphasic chart (a follicular phase, ovulation and a luteal phase), it could mean that you are not ovulating. If this is the case, you may want to bring your charts to your health care provider and get further advice.