Currently, there are several proven ways you can track your most likely ovulation dates, including the calendar method and the basal body temperature method. Both of these tracking strategies, however, are often best used in combination with another method. For example, you could use both the calendar and body temperature method together. There is also a third tracking method to consider — the cervical mucus method.
Below, you’ll learn more about this method and how to use it to track your fertility.
What is the Cervical Mucus Method?
We should say upfront that the cervical mucus method is admittedly not for the squeamish. While other tracking styles rely on the recording of dates and temperatures, this method requires a woman to observe changes in the moisture, or mucus, that naturally collects inside her cervix.
You may decide that method is not for you – and that’s ok! If you do decide to use it, however, it has the potential to be very helpful in your natural fertility tracking efforts.
What can your cervical mucus tell you about your fertility?
It’s because the hormones that control your cycle also make your cervix produce mucus, which collects on the cervix and in the vagina. This mucus actually changes in appearance and in thickness just before and during ovulation. So by recognizing the changing characteristics of your cervical mucus, you can predict when you’ll ovulate. In turn, this may help you determine when you’re most likely to conceive.
The method works because the appearance and texture of cervical mucus in women tends to follow a certain pattern throughout their natural fertility cycle.
If you choose to use this method, you’ll more than likely follow this same pattern:
- During your period, you’ll discharge menstrual blood. Once your period is over, your body may produce little to no cervical mucus for several days, or you may have cloudy-colored, sticky cervical mucus. This is an indication that you’re not likely to conceive.
- After a few days to a week, your body will begin to produce more mucus as it prepares to ovulate. During this process, your cervical mucus will begin to become clear and slippery and will increase in volume as you enter your fertile window. This kind of mucus is created to make it easier for sperm to travel to your egg. You can expect to see this mucus growing clearer, slipperier and wetter for approximately 9 days. You are most fertile at the peak day of this process when your cervical mucus becomes extremely slippery and clear and can be collected and stretched between your fingers. Ovulation occurs within two days of you having your peak day of stretchy mucus.
- After the peak day, your cervical mucus will become dry or cloudy and sticky. Two or more consecutive days of this sort of cervical mucus is usually a sign that you’ve passed your fertile window. Your cervical mucus will probably continue to be dry, cloudy or sticky until your period, though you may still notice wet mucus again just before your period starts.
How to Use the Cervical Mucus Method
In order to use the cervical mucus method to identify your likely ovulation date, you’ll have to stick to three key steps:
- Step 1: Examine the secretions that come out of your vagina each day after your menstrual bleeding ends. You can do this by collecting the mucus from your vaginal opening with your fingers. Note that it’s best to wipe them from front to back when you do this.
- Step 2: Record the state of your mucus daily on your fertility calendar. Be sure to take note of the color (yellow, white, clear or cloudy), the consistency (thick, sticky, or stretchy) and the feel (dry, wet, sticky, slippery, stretchy) of your cervical mucus.
- Step 3: Make a note about your likely ovulation date as it approaches so that you know to take advantage of the coming date. Remember, ovulation is recorded on the day that your mucus is clearest, slippery and most stretchy.
Much like you would with the basal body temperature method, you should mark a calendar every day when tracking your mucus to help guess at your ovulation date. You’ll definitely need to record your period days, and should take notes about your mucus by tracking how dry, tacky, cloudy, or wet your mucus is every day. More detail is a-ok in these tracking efforts!
Pros and Cons of the Cervical Mucus Method
As with any method, there are pros and cons to tracking your ovulation date in this way. The following are the biggest points to consider when deciding if the cervical mucus method is right for you:
- Tracking your cervical mucus for either fertility or contraceptive purposes is inexpensive and doesn’t have any side effects.
- This fertility planning method is the only one that does not require you to review previous cycles for comparison when tracking an ovulation date – meaning using it can give you a better chance of becoming pregnant sooner.
- Many women have found that they’re initially uncomfortable or unsure about interpreting what their cervical mucus is saying about their cycles. Tracking incorrectly or misinterpreting a mucus reading as a result of this uncertainty can throw off your findings.
- If you use this method, you cannot douche or use spermicides, as it will increase your risk of infection and may wash away or change the appearance of your mucus.
- You’ll need to make sure you don’t try to track your mucus levels after sex, as semen can ruin your results and make your findings less clear.
- Your mucus pattern may be altered by things like:
- cervical surgery — especially with cryotherapy or electrocautery
- douches or other “feminine hygiene” products
- recent use of hormonal contraceptives, including emergency contraception
- sexually transmitted infections
- Some women may not benefit from this method, particularly if they don’t produce very much mucus or if their cycle varies drastically from an average menstrual cycle.
Our Thoughts on the Cervical Mucus Method
While it’s not for everyone, this method is one of the most useful ovulation tracking methods. The state of a woman’s cervical mucus is an indicator of whether or not her body is ready to conceive. This method is an especially helpful supplement for other ovulation tracking methods. If you’re comfortable with this method, we highly recommend using it.
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