One of the things many fertility clients come to me with is "why am I not getting pregnant when I am trying around/after I have ovulated?". They are so upset and frustrated and feel that their body has let them down. Assuming these women have no underlying conditions or hormonal imbalances, what else can they do?
Well, it may surprise you to know that there is an optimal window for trying to conceive, but not always when you think. Many women assume it is between ovulation and menstruation but actually, we need sperm to be in place waiting for ovulation to occur ready to fertilise the egg in the Fallopian tubes.
And our bodies have mechanisms in place to look after, nourish and transport sperm before ovulation to help them get to the Fallopian tube at the right time.
After our period we get a few dry days and then: discharge. Some women may not know what this is or recognise it, but you are supposed to have it, it is a sign of a healthy cycle (when in the right place of the cycle and doesn't smell bad).
Your cervical fluid will have its own unique pattern in the lead up to ovulation, usually starting off thick and opaque and getting thinner, clearer, stickier and stretchier around ovulation. After your body thinks it has ovulated, this will either dry up or go back to a thicker consistency pretty quickly.
It goes through all these changes to change the vaginal environment from acidic (which keeps infections at bay) to alkaline (sperm friendly), nourish sperm, filter out defective sperm and propel healthier sperm towards the Fallopian tube. Pretty amazing stuff, right? I did a whole post on cervical fluid here if you want to know more.
How Do I Check My Cervical Fluid?
There are several ways you can observe your fluid. Please note that these are summaries, if you want to learn to chart your cervical fluid, you do need to take proper classes with a qualified teacher (like me) or read a book.
Panties: this is the first place many people spot their fluid. They see discharge in their nickers and either tend to think it is annoying or that there is something wrong with them (but you ladies know better than that now). You will notice maybe white/yellow thick crusty discharge, getting creamier and then more liquid.
Wiping: when you wipe after going to the toilet, you may be observing your fluid (use neatly folded toilet paper so you have a flat surface) or you may notice there are times when the paper just glides with no friction when your cervical fluid is more slippery.
External checking: this can be done by touching your vulva or by wiping with a neatly folded flat piece of toilet roll and testing the fluid for thickness, colour, smell and stretchiness between your fingers (the more stretchy, the closer you are to ovulation). If checking your vulva, you do need to ensure you aren't getting any arousal fluid by touching yourself, so don't spend too long down there if you want an accurate reading.
Internal Checking: I do not recommend this very often as you can cut your vaginal walls with your nails or introduce infection, however, some women (around 1-2%) do not have any observable cervical fluid so need to use this method. I am not writing about it here as it isn't something I encourage unless necessary as it can cause health issues.
Once you have a preferred method of checking sorted, you need to repeat your observations throughout the day. It can take a few months and the help of a teacher to get the hang of this.
How This Can Help You Time Conception Better
All this cervical fluid happens in the build up to an attempt to ovulate. When your body starts preparing for ovulation you will see cervical fluid start to appear. This is the beginning of your fertile window. When you have that very wet, clear slipper cervical fluid that you can stretch between your fingers, this is the amazing fluid that propels sperm towards the egg.
The Cliff Notes summary being: if you see fluid, this is when you should be trying!
Is This Fool Proof?
Unfortunately, it isn't. There are times when our cervical fluid alone is a bit misleading. Maybe in the lead up to ovulation, you have a stressful event, such as moving house, travel or an exam. This can stop the process of ovulation and your body will try again a few weeks later. What does this look like? You will start seeing the build up of your cervical fluid pattern then it will dry up and you may have assumed you ovulated. Then a few weeks later, you still haven't had a period, but you get more cervical fluid again.
Or you may have inflammation, or a hormonal imbalance such as thyroid issues or PCOS that mean that you get cervical fluid all the time and you need other checks to help verify your cervical fluid. Then add in allergies, intolerances, medications and essential oils all of which can give you false cervical fluid readings, it can get quite complicated to figure out on your own.
You may also have a vaginal or cervical infection creating a weird cervical fluid pattern compared to normal, or strange in colour, texture or smell. If this is the case, definitely get it checked out sooner rather than later.
However, there are still many women who can learn to chart their cervical fluid with these things, they just need a bit of extra help.
What About Using This To Avoid Pregnancy?
Well charting cervical fluid can be used to prevent pregnancy but there are more checks and rules in place to ensure that you don't get it wrong, so you can't just reverse the logic in this blog post. You do need to learn this properly with the help from a qualified teacher as it is very easy to misinterpret signs until you have gained the knowledge in this area to interpret your charts confidently and accurately yourself.
Want To Learn More About Charting Your Cycle?
There are several options, you can book in with me for a one to one session to learn how to chart and interpret your charts once you have completed a few. I also have an online course in the how to chart your cycle, that you can book onto here and study at your own pace. Once you have completed a few charts, you can book in one to one with me for help interpreting them.
Want To Learn More
Read more about Why You Should Love Your Cervical Fluid
Read more about What Do Periods Have To Do With Fertility?
Read more about is Natural Family Planning/Fertility Awareness Right For Me?