Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cervical Mucus: How to check & what it means

Before I started TTC I never gave any thought to my cervical mucus (CM). To be honest, I never really noticed it. I mean, I knew that from time to time I would have some sort of discharge, but I guess I knew it was normal and never really thought about it. It wasn't until one day when my sister who was TTC at the time told me about egg white cervical mucus (EWCM), thought I didn't know the term for it at the time, she basically said that when you have lots of discharge and it looks like egg whites it means you are fertile. I never put any more thought into it until I started TTC.

I never realized there was so much to know about CM. There are different types of CM and they can help you figure out where you are in your cycle and how fertile you are.

How to check your Cervical Mucus

Some women simply check they cervical mucus when they "wipe." While this can work, it's not always the best indicator and there may not be enough cervical mucus to secrete that far.

First things first: Wash your hands! Make sure your hands are clean and completely dry before checking.

Now, get comfortable. This part is up to you. Find a position that makes it easy and comfortable for you to access your cervix. You may want to squat, sit on the toilet or prop one leg up on the edge of your bath tub. Whatever makes you feel comfortable.

Next up, the collection. Insert one finger, I suggest your middle finger as it is generally the longest, in your vagina. Feel for you cervix and gently press your finger against it, or run your finger around it. Extract your finger and examine any mucus on your fingertip.

*Note: if you don't know what your cervix feels like, it's pretty easy to find. Just feel straight up for the round/cone shaped thing in there. You can't miss it.

What are you looking for?

There are three things you want to check when you are examining your cervical mucus. Colour, consistency & stretchy-ness/elasticity.

Colour: Cervical mucus can range in colour from transparent to white, cream or occasionally yellow tinged.

Consistency/Texture: You want to see how your cervical mucus feels. It can be dry, thick & sticky, wet & watery or slippery.

Elasticity: Depending on where you are in your cycle, your cervical mucus may be stretchy, or not stretch at all.

Types of cervical mucus & what they mean:

There are three main types of cervical mucus.

Dry Mucus: Right after your period has finished you will probably notice that you don't have much cervical mucus at all. If you do, it will probably be very dry, sparse and not stretchy at all.

Lotion-y Mucus: A little bit after your period has ended you might notice that you have more cervical mucus. When you check it, this mucus will be kind of sticky and thick. It will probably have a whitish or creamy color, and while it does feel tacky, it doesn't really stretch. A lot of women refer to this a lotiony cm as it kind of looks like a thick lotion.

Egg White Cervical Mucus (EWCM): When you get closer to your ovulation day, you will probably notice another change in your cervical mucus. First of all, it will probably become more abundant and you are more likely to notice it when you simply wipe after using the bathroom. The texture will become more slippery and stretchy. As the name suggests, this will probably look like raw egg whites. In a stretch test, it should stretch up to a couple inches before snapping. This is the most fertile type of mucus and helps carry sperm through the cervix and towards the egg.

*Note: To preform a stretch test, simply hold the mucus between your thumb and forefinger and slowly pull them apart, noting how far you can pull before the strand of mucus breaks.

After ovulation, as you are going through the dreaded two week wait (TWW) you might notice that your cervical mucus goes back to a lotion-y consistency, though some women report that it stays clear and slippery like EWCM, but becomes more watery.

Why does EWCM help us get pregnant?

The vagina is a naturally acidic environment. Acid kills sperm. CM actually protects the sperm from the acids in the vagina and will carry the sperm towards the fallopian tubes to find an egg ready for fertilization. Additionally, cervical mucus will slow down and damaged or abnormal sperm and prevent them from reaching an egg, giving you the best chance for a healthy baby.

What do I do with this information?

Well, first of all, I suggest that you keep a log of the consistency. As CM varies from woman to woman, keeping a log will help you determine what type of CM you have at different times in your cycle, and when you are most likely to be fertile. With this you can establish a pattern to help predict your fertile days in each cycle. If you do not already have a day planner or chart you keep this type of info in, you can print off a very simple chart here.

Secondly, when you are fertile, or feel EWCM, get busy!

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