In an earlier article I wrote about the 4 things you need to know before you get pregnant, I mentioned cervical fluid. In this post I’ll go more in-depth on the topic and tell you what cervical fluid is, why it’s important, and how learning about it will help you master your fertility.
Cervical fluid is a perfectly normal substance produced by your cervix. It’s made up of water, sugars, electrolytes and proteins. It’s sometimes referred to as cervical mucus, or discharge. I prefer the more euphonious term, Cervical Fluid, coined by Toni Weshler. In her groundbreaking book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Toni says:
“…I would suggest you never again use the “d-word” to describe your healthy cervical fluid. After all, we don’t refer to men’s healthy semen as “discharge”
Amen sister! She draws this correlation between cervical fluid and semen because they serve the same function. Both cervical fluid and semen exist for the same very important purpose: To keep sperm alive long enough to reach and fertilize an egg, and to facilitate the sperm’s journey there as quickly and safely as possible.
Cervical Fluid Helps the Sperm in Three Ways.
1) It provides an alkaline environment for the sperm. A woman’s vagina is slightly acidic, and hostile to sperm. Fertile cervical fluid is alkaline, like a man’s semen, and provides a safe harbor for the sperm.
2) It provides sustenance for the sperm, while they swim their way on up through the cervix, to reach the egg in the fallopian tube. That’s a long way for such a small thing to swim. The sperm need food along the way, and fertile cervical fluid provides the needed nutrition.
3) It provides an easy pathway for the sperm to swim through. While infertile cervical fluid, at a microscopic level, is like brambles and weeds that trip up the hopeful sperm, fertile cervical fluid has a beautiful crystalline structure that provides perfectly shaped passageways to allow sperm to swim with the least effort, and in the right direction, to meet the egg on time for their important date. Fertile cervical fluid also helps filter out irregular sperm so only the most suitable bachelors arrive at the egg’s doorstep.
Cervical Fluid Changes With Fertility
Cervical fluid goes through a predictable pattern each and every menstrual cycle. It goes like this:
Menstruation: Bleeding for around 3 to 7 days. This varies from woman to woman. During this time there may or may not be cervical fluid present.
None: After your period ends most women have a few days where there’s not a lot going on down there.
Sticky: Around day 7 or so, your cervix will start producing a sticky or pasty kind of cervical fluid. It may look like grade-school paste, or be slightly springy, but it’s mostly a solid kind of substance, not really a fluid so much, but we still call it cervical fluid, because cervical paste sounds GROSS! (But what about cervical pâté? fancy!) Whatever we call it, this type of cervical fluid means is that the period of fertility has begun since sperm might now be able to survive in the infertile cervical fluid long enough for the fertile cervical fluid to be produced, and in the fertile cervical fluid they can live for up to five days. A teacher of mine calls this the beginning of the Fertile Wave.
Creamy: As your cycle progresses, your estrogen level is rising every day, and with that rising tide of estrogen, the water content of your cervical fluid will increase. So essentially, take that pasty cervical fluid from yesterday, add some more water to it, and you’ve got Creamy cervical fluid! – See, fertility is like baking a cake, kind of. You get the right ingredients together, mix them around, and voila! Life! Anyway… um.. where was I? Ah yes, so, as your estrogen level rises so does the water content of your cervical fluid, bringing it from sticky, to creamy, and on to…
Eggwhite: Now you’re cookin’ with gas! Eggwhite cervical fluid is called that because it resembles raw eggwhite. It’s clear, and slippery, and can usually stretch an inch or more between a finger and thumb. THIS is the really fertile stuff! It’s alkaline, and has a beautiful crystaline structure when viewed under a microscope. This special fluid can keep sperm alive for up to 5 days inside your body.
Watery: Sometimes the water content of a woman’s cervical fluid will be so high that the eggwhite cervical fluid is more like water, it’s clear, slippery, and doesn’t hold its shape at all. You will know it’s there by the very wet sensation in your vagina. You may even feel like you’ve started your period. (One of my teachers calls this the “What-The-F***” sensation) I know several women who were confused by these “water gushes” until they found out that it was just very fertile cervical fluid. Now one of them is pregnant! :)
And that takes us up to ovulation, at which point the Fertile Wave “crests”, meaning the egg has been released by the ovary and now we are back to a dry or sticky holding pattern until menstruation begins. (Note: Some women will experience a watery cervical fluid the day before their period, as the endometrial lining starts to break up.)
Congratulations, you’ve just passed Cervical Fluid 101. Now you know that it’s produced by your cervix, it helps sperm live long enough inside your vagina to reach the egg, and goes through a predictable pattern each cycle, getting wetter as you approach ovulation, and drying up after the egg is released.
The next step is making sure to check your cervical fluid every day. If you’re not sure how to do that, read this post.
Keeping track of your own unique pattern of cervical fluid every cycle can provide a great window into the state of your fertility, and can help you and your doctor address any fertility issues, should they arise.