Written by Lesley O'Connor | Thursday, 10 March 2022
natural health heroes
Cervical mucus isn’t often talked about in the context of fertility, but the reality is that it is a primary link between your hormones and your fertility.
Whether you’re trying to conceive (TTC), trying to avoid (TTA), or further along on your fertility journey, getting to know the different types of cervical mucus can only be beneficial.
There are different mucus types throughout the menstrual cycle as they change under the influence of oestrogen and progesterone. Mucus types one and two are usually present at the beginning of the menstrual cycle, and approximately three days after ovulation until the start of the menstrual bleed. Types three and four are seen around the time of ovulation.
Oestrogen is highest in our follicular phase leading up to ovulation. This makes the mucus clear and stretchy, which is also known as peak mucus. It can be so stretchy you can spin it between your thumb and index finger for several centimetres. If you’re wondering if you’ve ever seen peak mucus, then you probably haven’t. But don’t worry because not everyone sees this type of mucus.
After ovulation, progesterone rises; this rise causes an abrupt decrease in cervical mucus secretion. The purpose of this is to plug the cervix from anything entering in case of successful pregnancy.
Cervical mucus types 3 and 4 are highly correlated with the probability of conception, which is known as your fertility window: the 5-6 days of your cycle where you are most likely to get pregnant. This is important if you are TTC or TTA.
Not sure if you’re ovulating? Changes in cervical mucus in the luteal phase of your cycle, along with other symptoms, can confirm if you’ve ovulated. This is part of the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) of contraception. An abrupt decrease in mucus after ovulation, a 0.3° rise in basal body temperature, and changes in cervical position are all used to track ovulation.
In addition to fertility signs, cervical mucus also helps to facilitate fertilisation. As cervical mucus changes closer to ovulation, it improves sperm mobility, allowing them to reach the uterus and better penetrate the ovum (egg). You can see how this it extremely important for successful fertilisation that can result in pregnancy.
Cervical mucus can also help prevent infections which can contribute to infertility. It helps to protect the beneficial lactobacilli bacteria while helping to clear pathogens that can cause infections such can candida and bacterial vaginosis (BV).
If you feel like things aren’t quite right with your vaginal health, you can test the pH of the vagina to give you an indication of its environment. The pH of the vagina should sit between 3.8-4.5, If yours isn't it, needs be investigated.
It’s important to work with a health care professional who understands the nuances of cervical mucus and how this can relate to your reproductive health and fertility.
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Ravel, J., Moreno, I., & Simón, C. (2021). Bacterial vaginosis and its association with infertility, endometritis, and pelvic inflammatory disease. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 224(3), 251–257. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2020.10.019
Simmons RG, Jennings V. Fertility awareness-based methods of family planning. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2020 Jul;66:68-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2019.12.003 Epub 2019 Dec 20. PMID: 32169418.
Lesley O’Connor is a Naturopath (BHSc) who helps support women with their fertility, energy and vitality, and metabolic health, through herbal, nutrition, and lifestyle medicine. Lesley values a 'food as medicine' approach to health, while also assessing environmental factors for a holistic view of women’s health.
Lesley offers a client-centred approach where women feel validated about their health concerns and encourages women to work with their bodies for optimal health and the best health outcomes. Educate and empower is top of the list in Lesley’s clinical practice, where she provides women with the tools to improve their health that are so sorely lacking in our current health care system.