The female reproductive system comprises several crucial organs which have their individualistic roles in the timely and proper functioning of the body. The cervical mucus secretions fill the opening of the cervical canal and contribute effectively to the dual roles of the cervix. Cervical mucus testing has many advantages as it allows women to not to solely rely on external methods of testing. Cervical mucus test is beneficial as it almost cost-free except for a menstrual calendar or a thermometer to check for the basal body temperature. These methods do not pose any side-effects as no medications are involved in these methods. These roles include preventing the ascent of pathogens and facilitating the ascent of sperm to the fallopian tubes. The cervical mucus is composed of water (95–99 percent), bactericidal proteins, ions, plasma proteins, enzymes, and mucins. The role of cervical mucus is to prevent sources that may cause infections from entering the uterus via the cervix in the woman. It is also responsible for providing nourishment and helping sperm to get transported via the cervix into the uterus. Fertile cervical mucus is an indication of the occurrence of ovulation in the concerned woman.
For those who are planning to start their families, this is the best time (ovulation) to have sexual intercourse to conceive. There’s a change in the amount and consistency of cervical secretions (cervical mucus) during different times in a woman’s menstrual cycle. This can be checked this by gently placing the middle finger into the vagina and pushing it up to the middle knuckle linked to it. For the first few days after a woman’s period, they will probably find that the vagina is dry and mucus cannot be felt. As the hormonal levels rise to prepare the body for ovulation, women will probably find that they start to produce mucus that is moist, sticky, white, and creamy. This is the start of the fertile period of a menstrual cycle. Immediately before ovulation, mucus gets clearer, wetter, and slippery – a bit like raw egg white. This is when a woman is most fertile. The mucus should then soon return to being gluey and thicker consistency, and after 3 days the particular woman should no longer be fertile. With the help of these methods, women can become more alert of their monthly cycles and associated physiological changes. Below are explained some of the benefits of Cervical Mucus test:
- Affordability: It is the best method for those using it as a natural method of preventing pregnancy. The method is affordable as no extra cost is associated with this method except for the medical consultations if any.
- Easy to Use: Cervical mucus test is easy to use. With the help of observations and test charts, over 90 percent of women are able to identify their most fertile days. The simplicity to use it makes it more demand among women who do not want to take medical assistance at the primary level.
- Non-invasive, natural and medicine-free: Cervical mucus method is non-invasive and does not require any medications or devices for the procedure.
In this article, we will learn in detail about:
- What is cervical mucus?
- What is a cervical mucus test?
- What are the cervical mucus changes?
- What is the role of Cervical Mucus test in fertility levels?
- How to test Cervical Mucus?
- How to prepare for Cervical Mucus Test?
- How to use the Cervical Mucus test?
- What are the cervical mucus observations?
- What are the risks associated with Cervical Mucus test?
- What is a Cervical Mucus Method?
- What is the significance of Cervical Mucus in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?
- Frequently Asked Questions related to Cervical Mucus Test
What is cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus test can be used for predicting ovulation if a woman has received adequate knowledge in the cervical mucus method. This also helps if she is dedicated to careful observation of her cervical mucus changes. Various different tests have been based on the biochemical constituents, quantity, and physical properties of cervical mucus. However, regular use of vaginal discharge for ovulation monitoring in women needs that the tests be more practical for obtaining accurate sample collection. These tests should be more objective for the detection of causes of cervical mucus changes in the concerned patient. The cells lining a woman’s cervical canal are responsible for secreting mucus. The consistency of this mucus changes over the monthly cycle. When a woman is fertile, the mucus changes its consistency and structure. This allows the sperm to travel on its way to the egg. When women are most fertile, the mucus will be clear, stretchy, and abundant. To give women an idea of the consistency of mucus, this type of fertile mucus is often abbreviated as EWCM (Egg-white Cervical Mucus). When women are not fertile, the mucus is cloudy, sticky, and doesn’t stretch.
What is a Cervical Mucus test?
Cervical mucus is gel-like or fluid discharge from the cervix. The consistency and amount of cervical mucus keep on changing throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle. This is due to the hormone levels, which fluctuates throughout the cycle. Hormones stimulate glands in the cervix in order to produce mucus. Cervical mucus can help in predicting ovulation, so a woman can track the mucus to help achieve or avoid pregnancy as per her and her partner’s family planning goals. This is known as ‘cervical monitoring’ or ‘fertility awareness’. Women should use a backup method of birth control if they’re trying to avoid pregnancy. This will help them effectively to prevent pregnancy.
Cervical Mucus Changes:
The amount, color, and consistency of cervical mucus in each cycle is different for every woman. General cervical mucus changes include the following:
- Cervical Mucus During Period:
During the menstrual cycle, blood will cover the mucus. Women may not notice it during these days of menses.
- Cervical Mucus After Period:
Immediately following the period, women may experience dry days. On these days, women may not notice any discharge.
- Cervical Mucus Before Ovulation:
Women body produces mucus before the release of an egg or before ovulation occurs. At this time, the cervical mucus may be yellow, cloudy or white. The mucus may feel gummy or stretchy inconsistency.
- Immediately Before Ovulation:
Just prior to ovulation, the estrogen levels in women are increasing. They may see more clear, watery, stretchy, and slippery mucus. This mucus may remind them of the consistency of egg whites.
- Cervical Mucus During Ovulation:
The stretchy, clear mucus that’s the consistency of egg whites is present during ovulation. The consistency and pH of this mucus are protective for sperm. For this reason, women who are trying to conceive prefer having sex on their ovulating days.
- Cervical Mucus After Ovulation:
There’ll be less discharge of mucus in women after ovulation. The mucus may turn cloudy, thicker, or gluey again. Some women may also experience dry days during this time period.
- Cervical Mucus during Pregnancy:
A small amount of vaginal discharge is generally present in the respective location throughout the month. This discharge changes during the different stages of pregnancy and during the different phases of a woman’s menstruation cycle. This type of condition is known as ‘leukorrhea’. The discharge is usually thin and milky-white. The term is frequently used while referring to vaginal discharge during pregnancy, although leukorrhea is also diagnosed in the non-pregnant women. In the first trimester of pregnancy, this vaginal discharge or cervical mucus increases, and, over time, develop into the mucus plug. Eventually, this mucus plug tends to block the opening of the cervix, to prevent any infection from entering the uterus and harming the fetus. At the end of a pregnancy period, as the cervix begins to dilate and prepare for delivery, the mucus plug slowly breaks down and may come out of the vagina in small bits or in large clusters.
Role of Cervical Mucus Test in Fertility:
Cervical mucus plays an important role in a woman’s reproductive system. When a woman is in the non-fertile stages of her menstrual cycle, the discharge becomes thick and gluey which contributes effectively to prevent infection. When a woman is about to ovulate, it becomes abundant and more watery, which allows the sperm to swim more easily and to survive. Cervical mucus plays a crucial role in female fertility levels as well. Infertility is the most important factor arising in the reproductive health of a woman. It helps in the sperm migration via female reproductive tract, morphological, and biochemical transitions to sperm, and contact of egg and sperm in the oviduct. The causes of infertility can be found in a majority of cases. Secretion levels of vaginal discharge help in finding out the current fertility levels in the body.
How to test cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus testing is one of the best ways to get in touch with what is happening in a woman’s body throughout her monthly cycle. Keeping a record of the changes in the amount and consistency of this discharge can also help women improve their chances of getting pregnant. After a month or two of regular observation, women will be able to determine the days where sexual intercourse is more likely to result in a successful conception. Here’s how the process works:
- Check for the secretions before and after urinating by wiping with toilet paper.
- Insert a clean finger into the vagina to obtain a sample of mucus.
- Observe (and record) the consistency of the mucus (vaginal discharge), and use the chart mentioned below to identify the fertile window.
- This mucus can be white, clear, cloudy, or yellowish. This mucus can have either a gluey or stretchy consistency. Use thumb and forefinger to see if the mucus obtained stretches or not.
|Time of Menstrual Cycle||Mucus Consistency||Fertility Status|
|End of Periods||No mucus noticed||Not fertile|
|After 3-4 days||No mucus noticed||Not fertile|
|After 3-5 days||Cloudy, minimal or sticky discharge||Not fertile|
- A woman may experience egg-white mucus which is wet, clear, stretchy, and abundant inconsistency in the next 3-4 days of cycle timing. This happens before and during ovulation.
- In the next 11-14 days of the cycle timing, no noticeable mucus can be found which indicates that the respective woman is not fertile in this phase of her menstrual cycle.
- A woman is considered to be highly fertile when she has stretchy and abundant mucus.
How to prepare for Cervical Mucus Test?
To use the cervical mucus method, it’s required to understand the different ways cervical secretions change during a normal menstrual cycle. Although the particular length of these phases may vary, women should contact their health care provider if their cervical secretions don’t follow the above-mentioned pattern. Women may have developed an infection, which requires medical attention. For women who want to use the cervical mucus method for birth control, should consult their health care provider first if:
- They recently had their first period, gave birth, or stopped taking birth control medications or other hormonal contraceptives
- Women breastfeeding their babies
- Women are approaching menopause
- Women have a condition that hinders regular ovulation, like polycystic ovary syndrome
The use of cervical mucus method is discouraged by health care providers in cases where women have persistent reproductive tract infections.
How to use the Cervical Mucus test?
- Record cervical secretions for several cycles: Starting from the day after menstrual bleeding ends, observe, and record cervical secretions on a daily and easy to record chart. To avoid confusing cervical secretions with semen or normal sexual lubrication, avoid intercourse or use contraception during the first cycle. Also, avoid douching, which can wash out cervical secretions, thereby making it difficult to notice any changes in the secretions.
- Check for the cervical secretions before and after urinating: Wipe the vagina carefully from front to back with toilet tissue. Observe the color (yellow, clear, white or cloudy), consistency (sticky, thick or stretchy) and feel (dry, slippery or wet) of the secretions. Also, make sure that you note sensations of moistness or dryness present in the vulva.
- Plan sex carefully during fertile days. Women are most fertile when their cervical secretions are wet, abundant, stretchy, clear, and slippery — almost like a raw egg white. For those who are planning for pregnancy, this is the right time to have sex. Ovulation most likely occurs during or one day after a woman’s last day of this type of vaginal discharge — known as the ‘peak day’.
For those who are planning to avoid pregnancy, unprotected sex is off-limits from the day of the beginning of cervical secretions until four days after the peak day in the monthly cycle. For those planning intercourse before cervical secretions begin, should avoid having sex the next day and night so that they don’t confuse semen and arousal fluids with cervical secretions. Some health care providers also suggest avoiding unprotected intercourse or using a barrier method of contraception even at the time of periods. During this time, it becomes difficult to detect cervical secretions when they are mixed with menstrual blood. Interpreting and noting down cervical secretions can be challenging at such times. Most women need more than one instructional session to analyze the pattern of secretions in a typical menstrual cycle.
Cervical Mucus Observations:
- Appearance: Many women observe cervical mucus on toilet paper after wiping; however, finger testing can also be performed to check for the consistency of mucus. To perform finger testing, lift the mucus off the tissue and check it right in between the finger and thumb. The appearance, color, and consistency of the vaginal discharge should be observed carefully.
- Sensation: In order to detect sensation produced by cervical mucus, a woman should make note of the sensations that are felt at the vulva (i.e., the lips of the vagina). The sensations which are present in the cervical mucus include damp, dry, and wet or slippery.
- During Ovulation: Type 1 and Type 2 cervical mucus are usually associated with the beginning of a menstrual cycle and reduced fertility levels. Type 3 cervical mucus is a transitional type of cervical mucus, which indicates that a woman is entering the fertile window. Type 4 cervical mucus is investigative of the most fertile time of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Intercourse during this period will likely increase the chances of pregnancy. Multiple studies have shown that the best chance of pregnancy is when intercourse takes place on a day which is near ovulation and Type-4 cervical mucus is present in the cervix.
The common phenomena of women reporting a ‘feeling’ of being pregnant is known as ‘confirmation bias’. Most women remember their early pregnancy symptoms and ignore or forget (not consciously) most of the menstruation cycles when they also had those same signs but had not conceived. The observations from a vulva of cervical mucus help in predicting not only the fertile days of menstruation cycle but also the highest chances of conception within the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle. Monitoring and identifying the consistency of mucus provides additional information not provided by other reproductive methods to identify the fertile time period. Specifically, methods based on cycle monitoring by daily vaginal ultrasound and/or LH detection via urine tracking are not much indicative about the probability of conception at a specific time in the fertile interval within an anovulatory cycle. It is very important to check for the mucus every day, every time a woman goes to the bathroom, and before she goes to bed. If they miss or skip looking at the mucus they will not be having a total record of their fertility levels. At the end of the day, after the last check before going to bed, the most fertile mucus indication should be recorded on a fertility chart.
Risks Associated with Cervical Mucus Testing and Method:
Testing cervical mucus for the purpose of promoting fertility levels in the body does not pose any potential risks. Likewise, using the cervical mucus method for birth control has no direct risks. However, the method doesn’t offer protection from urinary tract infections or sexually transmitted disorders. In addition, the risk of unintended pregnancy with the cervical mucus method is somewhat triggered as compared to other methods of birth control. It’s estimated that as many as 23 out of 100 females practicing the cervical mucus method for birth control achieve pregnancy in the first year of trying for a baby. Yet, with correct use, the pregnancy rate can be as low as 3 out of 100 women per year using the cervical mucus method for birth control.
What is a Cervical Mucus Method?
The cervical mucus method involves recognizing significant changes in the consistency of mucus produced by the cervix and in how discharge looks and feels like. Just before ovulation, the amount of mucus produced by the cervix noticeably rises, and the mucus becomes slippery and thin. Just after ovulation, the amount of this discharge decreases, and it becomes thicker in consistency and less noticeable at the same time. In order to prevent pregnancy, women should avoid getting indulged sexual intercourse or use a contraceptive method of birth control from the time she may first notice any cervical mucus. To promote pregnancy, women should have intercourse every day or every other day when the slippery and thin vaginal discharge is evident. While using methods that rely on cervical mucus, women should be aware of any changes in their health or daily routine that could make reading the symptoms of ovulation challenging. Feminine hygiene products, medications, douching, breastfeeding, sexual intercourse, or having a pelvic test in which lubrication is used all can change the appearance of the cervical mucus.
Significance of Cervical Mucus in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF):
A study was conducted to observe the effect of removing the cervical mucus before Embryo Transfer (ET) in the IVF procedure or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) procedure. Various studies have shown that the removal of cervical mucus prior to embryo transfer procedure in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure can have a positive impact on the pregnancy rate. It is being told that the presence of cervical mucus can result in obstruction in the path of an embryo. However, a confirmation is still awaited for this statement.
Cervical Mucus Test vs. Ovulation Test:
Cervical mucus method is advantageous as the testing does not require a woman or a couple to book an appointment with the doctor. Cervical mucus method needs to be utilized in combination with the calendar method. A cervical mucus test comes without any side effects. The method can also work as an effective indicator that the calendar method is working well. The cervical mucus method is considered to be 75 percent to 95 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. It’s more effective when women have regular menstrual cycles and are able to notice certain signs of ovulation. Cervical mucus testing promotes responsibility-sharing and communication within couples. These methods do not involve medical contraindications as such. These methods are reliable as they are accepted within all religions and cultures without facing any kind of controversies. Ovulation testing is usually recommended by doctors for women who are having trouble getting pregnant. If this is the case, blood tests are used to test whether or not a woman is ovulating at a normal rate. Monitoring cervical mucus is the best way for a woman to predict her most fertile days. Other methods may include tracking periods and Basal Body Temperature (BBT).
Frequently Asked Questions related to Cervical Mucus Test:
Q. Does cervical mucus increase before periods?
When a woman is menstruating, the blood flow covers the mucus, so they may notice any discharge. Days, when women are currently in their menstrual phase, are considered unsafe days. The body during this time makes more mucus when an egg starts to ripen, prior to when ovulation is about to happen. This mucus is usually cloudy, yellow, white, or and it feels to be tacky or sticky.
Q. How do you monitor cervical mucus?
The most accurate method to identify changes in cervical mucus is to collect and analyze a sample of mucus on a regular basis. To do this, wash and dry your hands well, then insert the middle or index finger into the vagina, getting as close to the cervix as possible. One can notice mucus while using a toilet paper to wipe. Consistently using the same method each day can prove to be helpful in monitoring cervical mucus.
For those who are planning to become pregnant, they may take notice of “pregnancy signs” such as fatigue, increased food cravings, and morning nausea. However, hormones that proceed the menstrual cycle can also lead a woman feel nauseated, fatigued, and hungry for certain foods, so they can feel pregnant even when they are not. Checking their cervical mucus or looking for other “pregnancy” symptoms is not a reliable method of confirming pregnancy. Having a missed period and performing a pregnancy test can prove to be the most reliable method to confirm that a woman is pregnant. Looking for transitions in cervical mucus is also not the best method of telling whether a woman is pregnant. Changes in the cervical mucus are an accurate reflection of the activity of a woman’s reproductive hormones. The observations and charting will be an accurate record of these changing hormonal events.
SOURCES AND REFERENCES:
- Natural Family Planning: Advantages and Disadvantages | News Medical News-medical.net, 14 June 2019
- Cervical Mucus Changes and Ovulation Prediction and Detection | Europe PMC Europepmc.org, 14 June 2019
- Cervical Mucus Testing | Pregnancy Info Pregnancyinfo.ca, 14 June 2019
- Cervical Mucus Helps in the Fertilization | ResearchGate Researchgate.net, 14 June 2019
- Cervical Mucus Monitoring | UNC Health Care Med.unc.edu, 14 June 2019