What Cervical Discharge Tells You About Fertility

Learn to Identify Time of Ovulation Based on Your Cervical Mucus

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Vaginal discharge, such as Spinnbarkeit mucus, is a normal occurrence for women. Depending on your body's menstrual cycle, there will be more discharge if you are ovulating, breastfeeding, or are sexually aroused. The amount of the discharge can vary, as can odor and color, so observing the presence of mucus at the opening of the vagina (vulva)is one way of determining when your body ovulates.

Cervical Mucus and Fertility

Any mucus at the vulva is significant as it is a sign of ovarian activity and indicates potential fertility and pending ovulation.

A few days after your menstrual period (2-3 days after you stop bleeding), your vagina and cervix should feel dry. At this time there is no mucus present, but as your eggs start to ripen, glands on your cervix begin to secrete sticky mucus that is a cloudy white-ish or yellow-ish color.

Around the time of Ovulation

Immediately after you ovulate, the mucus will become clear and slippery like a raw egg white. This mucus type is refered to as spinnbarkeit, a German word that means stretchable. Spinnbarkeit mucus is the stringy, stretchy quality of cervical mucus found especially around the time of ovulation. Usually a result of high estrogen levels, spinnbarkeit mucus refers to the egg white quality of cervical mucus that is easier for sperm to penetrate.

By stretching the mucus between your thumb and your index finger, you will be able to see if your cervical fluid has this stretchy quality, since 'good' spinnbarkeit means the mucus can hold a stretch which can be up to 4 or 5 inches before it breaks.

You have the greatest chance of getting pregnant when the mucus becomes thin and clear as sperm can survive in this mucus for up to 72 hours.

Spinnbarkeit mucus has a longer duration in younger and more fertile women. The duration may be shorter in women approaching menopause or in women who have taken hormonal contraception for several years.

Peak Day of Fertility

The last day of spinnbarkeit mucus coincides with the day of ovulation in 80% of cases. The probability of conceiving a baby is highest on that day.

Since the last day of the spinnbarkeit mucus can only be detected after the stretchy raw-egg quality has changed to a less fertile mucus or to no mucus, women might find it helpful to keep track of their menstrual cycle and mucus characteristics in order to identify a pattern in the occurrence of their own peak day.

Less Fertile Mucus

Early in your cycle, the mucus will not stretch since secretion of less-fertile mucus happens for a few days right after the menstrual period. Spinnbarkeit happens during ovulation and after ovulation, the mucus will again become dry and sticky or creamy and thick, with an opaque and jelly-like appearance that breaks quickly when trying to stretch the mucus between the fingers.

After ovulation the presence of progesterone causes the mucus to dry up. There may be a sensation of dryness at the vulva and there is no mucus discharge.

This dryness indicates the end of the fertile phase and the beginning of the definitely infertile phase, which ends on the last day of the cycle (the day before the next period).

Cervical Mucus Characteristics

It is important to remember that every woman's cycle is different, and your cervical mucus may not match the examples or even be the same from month to month. Vaginal infections, sexual arousal, lubricants and even medications can alter the appearance of vaginal discharge. Keeping track of your cycle and mucus characteristics, such as those listed below, may help you identify your most fertile window:

Spinnbarkeit (Egg White) Cervical Mucus:

  • Most fertile
  • Allows the sperm to swim easily into the cervix
  • Similar to raw egg white consistency
  • Stretchable—about an inch or two without breaking apart
  • At the time of ovulation, you have 2 or 3 days of egg white cervical mucus and then your temperature will take a little dip before rising the next day.

Watery Cervical Mucus

  • Second best for conception
  • Allows sperm to move into the cervix, but not as easy for the sperm to swim
  • When you have watery CM, you may feel as though you've leaked urine in your underwear. Watery CM is clear in color and drips or runs off your fingers.

Creamy Cervical Mucus

  • Considered non-fertile since it greatly restricts the movement of sperm.
  • Often pearly white or creamy yellow.
  • Thick and feels like lotion when rubbed between the fingers.

Sticky Cervical Mucus

  • Least fertile
  • Thick and chunky and feels kind of like paste or like glue from a glue stick, making it hard for sperm to swim through

Sources:

Klaus, Hanna; bNatural family planning – Is it scientific? Is it effective?’ pages 6, 5, 4, 10; Newman Lecture Series 1; May 21, 2000.

Cohen M, Stein I, Kaye B; ‘Spinnbarkeit: A characteristic of cervical mucus; significance at ovulation time'; Fertil & Steril; Vol 3, no 3, 1952.

Klaus, H ; Natural Family Planning : A Review 2nd Edition. July 1995, pages 11, 13; NFP Center of Washington, D.C. Inc. 8514 Bradmoor Drive, Bethesda, MD 20817-3810

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