How Do I Know I Am Fertile Enough? The Role Of Cervical Mucus
How Do I Know I Am Fertile Enough? The Role Of Cervical Mucus
I remember it very clearly. I was 8 years old, and I was going to the cinema to see my very first film: Superman. As a family, we were not going to the cinema very often, so it was a real treat. More than 40 years later, I can still remember precisely where the cinema was, my excitement at going to see a film. A proper film!! I had only seen Disney productions until then. And of course, I remember Superman.
Despite the lack of special effects, Superman was standing out. He could save Lois and fight for justice. He had some superpowers. But he could also hide amongst others without ever been recognised by his co-workers. He was the epitome of the superhero.
Cervical mucus is a bit like Superman. Most of the time, during a woman’s cycle, it stays a bit hidden and frankly looks useless. But around the time of ovulation, it suddenly becomes a superhero, crucial to fertility. Without cervical mucus, the probability of conception drops to the floor and pregnancy is unlikely to happen. Today we will look at:
- What cervical mucus is and how it should look like
- Why fertile mucus, and the egg white quality, is vital to fertility
- How you can increase the amount and the quality of your cervical mucus with foods
- How you can increase the quantity and quality of your cervical mucus through lifestyle changes
So, what on earth is cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus is produced by the cells of your cervix. It is a fluid, gel-like discharge present throughout the menstrual cycle. The quantity and quality of cervical fluid vary at different times in the menstrual cycle. It is often not really noticeable at the start and the end of the menstrual cycle (1).
However, around 5-6 days before ovulation, whilst oestrogen levels are rising, cervical mucus is produced in much larger quantities. This peaks around 2-3 days before ovulation before it dwindles down again.
The look of cervical mucus is different at different stages of the menstrual cycle.
In the first part of the cycle, cervical mucus is often also called fertile mucus and looks like raw egg white. It should be clear and stretchy. It is not sticky or thick, and it’s not watery either. It should be transparent, not opaque and without blood in it. If you put it between your fingers, it will be stretching between the fingers.
Once ovulation has happened, the progesterone levels are increasing, and the mucus will dry, appearing scanty and sticky (1).
Cervical mucus is essential to fertility.
Fertile mucus, with its raw egg white consistency is the ideal environment for sperm. It helps the transport and survival of the sperm from the vagina through the cervix and up the fallopian tubes where it will hopefully meet a mature egg.
Getting the right consistency of cervical mucus is essential. The nice stretchy raw egg white is sperm friendly, whereas the sticky, opaque cervical mucus found in the second phase of the cycle isn’t (2).
In the 5-6 days before ovulation, there should be enough mucus that you can see it on the toilet paper when you wipe.
The cervical mucus increases the fertile window.
Cervical mucus isn’t just about ensuring the right transportation of the sperm to the fallopian tubes. Because it is a sperm-friendly environment, it also provides a safe environment for the sperm to survive until it meets the egg. So, while the egg is surviving only 24 hours in the fallopian tubes, the sperm can survive and wait for up to 5 days with the right environment. This is the reason why having that egg white consistency and the correct quantity of fluid is essential. If the cervical mucus is too thick or there is too little, the sperm will dry out and die (2).
Foods can improve cervical mucus quality (and quantity).
First things first. The most important thing to do is to drink enough fluids. During the most fertile period, the cervical mucus is at its wettest and is 95% water. If you are dehydrated, cervical fluids will also dry up, and the cervical mucus will look drier, stickier than it should be. Does it mean that the answer is to drink gallons of water? Probably not but aiming for 2 litres of water (or herbal teas etc…) a day is an excellent way to stay hydrated and to support cervical mucus production.
Research has also shown that Omega-3 might help increase the quantity of cervical mucus. Omega-3 can be found in oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna…) as well as some nuts such as walnuts. Aiming for two portions of oily fish a week will go a long way to establish the right balance in the body. As a bonus, Omega-3 have also been found to help with egg quality and hormone balance which all contribute to an increased chance of conceiving!
Finally, vitamin C helps the secretion of cervical fluids. It is also essential in follicle maturity and ovulation. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits. As it can’t be stored in the body, it is crucial to eat some foods rich in vitamin C every day. This can be as simple as having an orange for dessert or having some lemon juice in your water.
Overwork is a significant source of poor cervical mucus.
Overwork, working extremely long hours and basically burning the candle by both ends is extremely depleting. In Chinese Medicine, this depletes the Yin. The first part of the menstrual cycle is also a Yin phase, and the cervical mucus is a Yin substance. When Yin is becoming deficient in the body, this affects the first part of the cycle (and oestrogen production) as well as the production of cervical mucus.
This is one of the primary causes of infertility in our society. With a ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality, many people, including women, are burning out. The lack of cervical mucus (or a very dry rather than wet mucus) is just one of the signs that women have pushed their body too far.
The solution is at the same time easy and very hard to put in place. Women need to slow down and take the time to rest and to look after themselves.
What about Lisa?
Lisa came to see me because she wanted to get pregnant. One of my usual questions during my intake is around fertile mucus (whether it’s there, how it looks like etc…). Lisa told me that:
– She is working at a legal firm. She is always under pressure, working long hours, often working well into the evening or at the weekend. (She is burning the candle by both ends and is depleting her Kidney yin energy)
– She is always rushing from one thing to the next. Lisa doesn’t take time for a break, not even for a drink or to have lunch. (She hardly drinks water and lives on coffee which is dehydrating)
– Her diet mainly consists of ready meals, sandwiches bought at the café next door etc.. She just doesn’t have time to cook. (She doesn’t have many sources of vegetables or fruits, so has little vitamin C. She also never eats fish or nuts as you rarely find them in ready meals or sandwiches. Her intake in Omega-3 is low)
Unsurprisingly, she also had no fertile mucus before ovulation.
We’ve covered quite a lot in this article. What we need to remember is:
- A good quality cervical mucus is essential to fertility.
- To support cervical mucus production, you need water, Omega-3 and vitamin C.
- Overworking is detrimental to cervical mucus production.
Have you been struggling to conceive for a while and don’t know what else you can do? Give me a call on 01642694063 and we will organise a free consultation to see how nutrition can support you.
You might also be interested in:
- Insights into the role of cervical mucus and vaginal pH in unexplained infertility
- The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation