You’ve probably noticed that once in a while a wet patch appears in your knickers, in fact, there can be a hell of a lot of fluid down there, enough to make you question if you have something weird going on. But what you’re feeling and seeing is cervical fluid and it’s a sign of good health. Thank flip for that.
In fact, it’s massively important when it comes to your fertility.
Produced in the lead up to ovulation, it works in several wondrous ways by:
- Letting you know you’re getting ready for the big O (ovulation). Cheaper, and in my opinion, more effective than ovulation sticks.
- Making sex more comfortable due its lubricating nature (though it is different to the love juice you produce when you’re turned on).
- Creating a route for sperm to get from your vagina and into your womb via your cervix.
- Literally speeds sperm up on their epic journey to your egg.
- Produces a ferning pattern to guide sperm on their merry way. Non-fertile fluid during the rest of your cycle stops them in their tracks (one of the ways the birth control pill works is by preventing you from producing fertile fluid).
- Nourishing sperm to keep them alive and in tip-top shape.
- Providing an alkaline environment which protects them from the acidic nature of your vagina (it’s acidic to help prevent infections).
The different types of cervical fluid.
Throughout your cycle (remembering that all women are different), you might find that after your period finishes, you experience a few days of feeling dry or being slightly moist (the moisture evaporates within a few seconds of being exposed to air), this is then followed by the production of cervical fluid that tends to be quite sticky, a bit like rubber cement – rubbery, springy and relatively thick. Sperm would struggle to do their thing in it (warning – if you’re using Fertility Awareness as a method of contraception, you should still treat this fluid as fertile to be on the safe side).
Next up comes cervical fluid that is increasing in its moisture content and fertile abilities. It’s creamy, runny and milky or lotion-like, and it can also feel quite cool at the opening to your vagina. It’s usually white and opaque. You’ll start to feel wet even when you’re not turned on, which in itself can get you horny … yup, mother nature’s pretty clever when it comes to creating ways to get you to have sex when you’re about to ovulate.
Finally, the most fertile fluid arrives. This magical stuff resembles raw egg whites and is mega slippery and stretchy; it can stretch from one to ten inches and may just fall out of you. Many women I’ve spoken to have been grossed out by this and assumed there was something dodgy going on. There isn’t. This is a normal and ideal occurrence, you want the egg white goo to be present, particularly if you’re trying to get knocked up. It is usually clear or a bit streaky, and some women may find it can be tinged with pink or red which indicates ovulatory bleeding.
After ovulation there’s a drying up of fluid, a sure that your oestrogen levels have dropped and that you’re now in the progesterone phase of your cycle, aka the luteal phase. If you experience a second bout of wet and egg white cervical fluid in your luteal phase, this isn’t a fertile time, it’s simply down to a second boost of oestrogen. As your period approaches, you might start to feel wet again and produce wet, perhaps egg white cervical fluid, but you’re not fertile now either, this is just as sign that your progesterone level is dropping as you approach menstruation.
The difference between cervical fluid and cum.
Hopefully if you’re trying to conceive, you’re going to have cum inside you pretty regularly, so how do you know what’s what?
Cum tends to be thinner, breaks apart easily and dries quickly on your finger. Egg white cervical fluid is slippery and stretchy, so doesn’t break apart easily. Semen will be absorbed into toilet paper, whilst egg white cervical fluid will sit on top of it without being absorbed.
What about when I’m turned on?
When you’re feeling horny, your vagina will secrete lubricant, particularly around ovulation. This is different to cervical fluid (though I sincerely hope you’re NOT checking your cervical fluid whilst you’re getting it on or sat on the tube fantasising about George Clooney).
Your Go Time.
Ladies, if you’re trying to conceive, you really want to be getting laid once the milky-lotiony fluid arrives, and certainly when you’re producing the egg white fluid. The egg white fluid can keep sperm alive for 3-5 days, hence why it shows up in the days preceding ovulation – your man’s swimmers need time to find and reach your egg, and ideally just be hanging out waiting for your egg to drift on by, SO YOU NEED TO BE HAVING SEX IN THE LEAD UP TO OVULATION. Don’t just wait for day 14 to arrive – you may be leaving it too late as your egg only hangs around for 24 hours, plus, not every woman ovulates on day 14. Pay attention to your fluid!!
And if you’re practicing Fertility Awareness as contraception, this is when you need to take other measures, ie. abstaining (boring, particularly if your libido spikes around ovulation), using condoms (still a bit boring but highly effective), or “pull and pray” (fun but requires a lot of prayer, ie. not a safe method of contraception).
How to spot it.
Here’s a radical idea – put your fingers inside your vagina. I know there are women who aren’t into doing this and there are lots of reasons why that may be the case, all of which I respect. However, it’s really no surprise given that we’ve been brought up seeing ads produced by tampon manufacturers who had to find a way to market tampons without getting into the whole “touch your vagina” quandary, hence the inclusion of an applicator, because, you know, vaginas are dirty and you’re a sexual deviant if you touch yourself.
You may also notice it when wiping yourself after doing a poo (it’s ok ladies, we all do it). The slippery nature of the egg white fluid means that your hand may speed up and glide past your vagina as you wipe. As you poo it may also move out of you and go down the toilet (don’t worry, there’ll be more left inside), if you know you’re approaching ovulation and want to be super
anal attentive, you may want to hold a piece of toilet paper underneath your vagina as you poo so that you can spot if any fluid come out. You may cringe at the idea of doing that now, but if you want to be a mum, you may as well get used to dealing with body fluids now.
Finally, the wet patch in your knickers is a clue to the quality of your fluid. The most fertile fluid has a high water content and therefore tends to leave a symmetrical patch in your undies, whereas the non-fertile stuff that you produce post-ovulation is more likely to leave streaky patches and is a bit yellowy which is also normal. The yellow tinge is a sign of Heat in TCM terms, which makes sense as you are in the Yang (warmer) phase of your cycle and will therefore have a higher basal body temperature (another way of charting your cycle and detecting ovulation).
Don’t have much fertile fluid? Here’s why:
- You have less as you age, depressing but true. When I started using Fertility Awareness as contraception in my early twenties, I would consistently have four days of very slippery stretchy egg white fluid, whereas now that I’m 34 I have between one and three days, depending on how well I’m taking care of myself.
- You’ve recently come off birth control such as the pill or you’re approaching menopause (both are times when you’re likely to experience a little or a lot of deficiency in Chinese terms).
- Some common medications can dry your cervical fluid up. These include NSAIDs (ie. ibuprofen and aspirin), antihistamines, cold and sinus medications which include a cough suppressant or dry up your mucous, clomid (a fertility drug), some sleep aids and antidepressants, propantheline (pro-banthine) and some epilepsy drugs.
- Poor circulation to the reproductive organs, which can be related to a sedentary lifestyle, ie. sitting at a desk all day.
- Cervical cone biopsies (which tend to be performed after an abnormal PAP smear), can occasionally (apparently rarely) affect your cervix’s ability to produce and release cervical fluid as the crypts which produce the fluid can be removed during the biopsy (by the way, this procedure also increases your likelihood of having miscarriages and pre-term labour).
- From the Chinese perspective, one explanation is that you might have Kidney Yin deficiency. The first half of the cycle leading up to ovulation is the Yin phase of the cycle, and as your Yin increases, so should your cervical fluid. When there’s a deficiency you might not produce much, or any. You may also find that the first half of your cycle is long, as it takes a while for your Yin to increase and reach an adequate level, enough for you to ovulate (delayed ovulation can also be related to a blockage of Qi, and stagnant Qi can also lead to a drying of fluids).
- Working long hours or burning the candle at both ends (this includes insomnia) can cause Yin deficiency.
- Tampons are hugely absorbent, just think about the blue water being sucked up by a tampon on the TV ad. If you experience vaginal dryness and have a lack of fertile fluid, you might want to experiment with using pads for a few cycles and seeing if there’s a difference.
If you are lacking in the fluid department, here’s what you can do about it:
- Stay hydrated. There’s no need to flood your system with litres of water, but make sure you’re staying hydrated (your urine should be pale and shouldn’t smell).
- Be reasonable with the number of hours you work and get enough good quality sleep. Night is ruled by Yin, and the best way to top up your Yin is to get plenty of sleep. Unfortunately people who are Yin deficient tend to have trouble staying asleep at night – good news though, acupuncture is great at taking care of all these issues.
- Talk to your doctor about any medication you’re taking which might be affecting your ability to produce fertile cervical fluid.
- Ask your doctor to check the pH and consistency of your cervical fluid, particularly if you’re taking Clomid and suspect it’s dried you up.
- Increase your intake of vegetables, flax seeds and seaweeds (these sea vegetables are great at nourishing your Yin), as well as essential fatty acids.
- Consider supplementing with evening primrose oil, borage seed oil and L-arginine.
- Limit your intake of booze and caffeine (both dehydrating).
- Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can both be used to increase and improve your cervical fluid. In fact, it’s common for women who aren’t even being treated for this reason to notice an increase in their production of cervical fluid.
- Avoid NSAIDs and use paracetamol instead, or better yet, get some treatment to take care of the underlying issue that is responsible for the pain.
- Arvigo massage improves flow through the reproductive organs and is largely a self-care practice.
- Yoga also improves flow, but I recommend staying away from Hot Yoga as it’s heating and drying. Instead you could opt for Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga, both of which nourish and release.
- Use other remedies to deal with colds, flu and allergies (essential oils, probiotics, garlic, locally produced honey, acupuncture and homeopathy).
- Use a lubricant which is sperm friendly.
All clued up?
So, in a 2,00 word nutshell, that’s what cervical fluid is all about. If you’ve got any questions about this post or another women’s health topic, I’d love to hear from you, just hit me up in the comments below or through my contact page.
If you want to know more about cervical fluid and how to chart your menstrual cycle to either avoid or achieve pregnancy, I highly recommend reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility (the book that changed my life at 22).
And if you want to discuss how treatments can help support your fertility, get in touch. Right now I’m offering women free twenty-minute chats over the phone to discuss what’s going on for you and how I might help.