Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This writing is based on my own learning and experiences and meta-analysis of research. If you think you have an infectious disease or other health problems related to reproductive health; go to your doctor or a trusted practitioner. Although ultimately, I don’t want to depend on a doctor that doesn’t take me seriously; until we have built up sufficient capacity in self-organized health structures, this is what we will have to deal with.
Everyone with a period will be familiar with changing bodily fluids in their underwear throughout the month. If you have not looked into this much, it might seem like the fluid changes at random. When you take a closer look, you will see there is a distinct pattern to it, connected to menstruation, ovulation and hormone levels. Observing changes in cervical fluid more closely can teach you a lot about your body and your reproductive health. For many people, learning about cervical fluids, leads to feelings of frustration, because they realize how we are not taught such basic things about our bodies in the first place.
What is what
The job of cervical fluid is to keep sperm alive and to make sure they can make their way up to the fallopian tubes/ovaries. It is a medium for sperm to sustain itself, when conception is an option. Cervical fluid also helps balance the pH in the vagina, which is slightly acidic, which helps avoid infections. Under the influence of rising estrogren levels just before ovulation, most people will see a change in the consistency of cervical fluid. The different consistencies of cervical fluid tend to follow a pattern:
Dry Sticky Creamy Eggwhite
This pattern only gives a general idea of how cervical fluid develops – there are big differences between different people. Ultimately, you need to observe your own body to know what your pattern looks like – once you know that, you will be able to identify anything out of the ordinary.
Directly after your period, most people have little to no cervical fluid. It can feel dry or there can be a bit of moisture, but not more than a slight damp feeling. As estrogen rises after some days, you will notice a change in the cervical fluid. Exactly when this happens, differs a lot between people: it can be anywhere between 4-14 days, depending on the length of your cycle etc. This type of cervical fluid is not suitable for sperm to stay alive or make their way to the ovaries; in short, it is not fertile.
At this stage the texture of the cervical fluid varies a lot among people, it can be sticky and thick, or flaky, maybe a bit rubbery and dry-ish, or pasty. In essence, at this stage the cervical fluid feels quite ‘dry’ and doesn’t really feel wet. The colour can range from yellow/off-white/white/cloudy. ‘Sticky’ cervical fluid is not very fertile, although the chance is relatively low, it is possible for conception to happen with this type of cervical fluid.
Most people have a few days of ‘creamy’ cervical fluid. This type of fluid is more wet and often white-ish in colour. It can stretch a bit between your fingers, but no more than 1-2cm. It can feel lotion-y, gummy, creamy, milky and sometimes kind of cold. It is relatively fertile.
This is the most fertile type of cervical fluid. It usually comes right before ovulation and is the ideal medium for sperm to survive and thrive. It resembles, as the name gives away, raw egg-white. It is usually see-through, smooth, feel lubricative and (very) stretchy. It can stretch at least 3cm, but often much more than that. It can contain some streaks of colour; yellow, pink or red (indicating ovulatory bleeding). It will leave round/symmetrical stains in underwear because of its high water content. As opposed to more stripe-y or rectangular stains from cream/sticky/dry cervical fluid. Egg-white cervical fluid tends to be quite easy to identify, because of its obvious characteristics. But watch out, since it is so slippery and often see-through you might overlook it, so pay close attention.
After ovulation with suddenly lowering estrogen levels, cervical fluid also changes abruptly to mostly ‘dry’ cervical fluid again, until just after the next period or so. Some people have also got some sticky-creamy cervical fluid just before their period. Getting the hang of identifying cervical fluid, might take some practice. You will need to get to know your own body to learn what it looks like at the different stages. There are many charts and pictures of cervical fluid at the different stages which you can find online, and it might be helpful to have a look at. At the end of the article you can see a chart, which shows an overview of the qualities of cervical fluid at each stage.
There are some things that can influence cervical fluid or its visibility:
Vaginal or urinal infections
Seminal fluid aka semen
Lube or spermicides
Antihistamine drugs (these can dry the cervical fluid)
PLEASE, do not douche. I know advertising and stigmatizing is everywhere, but your vagina is not dirty! Cervical fluid and everything else that goes on in a vagina is essential to keeping the balance in place. The natural acidity and slight basic/alkaline cervical fluid are made to balance each other and create the right pH (pH indicates how acidic or alkaline something is). A vagina can generally take care of itself and protect itself from infection most of the time. By douching, using soap or using other (cleaning) products in the vagina you disturb this balance. Thereby you increase the susceptibility to infections etc. Just wash with (warm) water and your body will do the rest.
Why was all of this important again?
Learning about cervical fluid can help you understand your body. It can be helpful in:
Identifying when you are fertile, and let you know when you need to be extra careful having sex that can result in pregnancy. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BE CAREFUL THOUGH.
Help in identifying when exactly to have sex, that can result in pregnancy if you are trying to get pregnant.
By getting familiar with your own ‘usual’ pattern you will be able to quickly see when something is out of the ordinary. This can help identify infections and other problems early on. Moreover; by knowing what is normal for you, you will also know when not to go to the doctor. Cervical fluid is not a symptom of an infection.
You will know what the hell is going on with your body and where in your cycle you are – and that on it’s own should already be a good motivation.
Cervical fluid is one of three primary fertility signs. The other two are (basal) body temperature and cervical positing. In addition, there is a whole row of secondary fertility signs you can observe. In the next guide, I will address body temperature and cervical position. By observing all three signs, you get a more complete picture of what your body is up to.