Cervical mucus can give you an awful lot of information, but there is a learning curve to knowing what your cervical mucus is telling you. One of the most common questions asked by women who are interested in checking their cervical mucus to monitor their fertility is about the changes in mucus post-ovulation. What does cervical mucus look like after you have ovulated? How can you tell that you are no longer fertile? And how can you tell from post-ovulatory cervical mucus if you might be pregnant?
Monitoring the structure and color of cervical mucus is part of the wider routine of fertility charting. Fertility charting, also known as charting to conceive, is a natural method many women use to keep track of their ovulation, and the days prior to ovulation. It includes measuring ones basal body temperature (as shown in the chart in the picture), and recording any other natural ovulation symptoms a woman has — tender breasts, ovulation pain, or even slight abdominal bloating are some examples.
Cervical mucus can also stand alone as a way to find out more about a womans menstrual cycle. Depending on the time of the month, cervical mucus contains more or less water, and other ingredients like protein and glucose. This is reflected in the appearance of the mucus, which can be thin or thick, and stretchy or cream cheese like. You collect a mucus sample by inserting two fingers. Then what?
Lets begin by examining what cervical mucus normally looks like during ovulation. A thin, stretchy, slippery structure indicates ovulation. The color of cervical mucus during ovulation is either transparent, like a raw egg white, or white. During this point in your cycle, cervical mucus contains a high percentage of fluid. This kind of cervical mucus provides an ideal environment for sperm to reach an egg, and to survive for the longest possible time.
After your ovulation is finished, your cervical mucus will thicken and change in color. If you notice a clay-like, non-stretchy mucus that is totally white in color and not see-through in any way, you can be fairly certain that this is post-ovulatory cervical mucus. At the same time, you might feel that your vagina is drier than during ovulation. If you conceived, you might even notice implantation bleeding.
Early pregnancy cervical mucus is so similar to the cervical mucus you would normally expel during the luteal phase that monitoring the changes cant really be used as a reliable way to determine pregnancy. Some women do report that they had more cervical mucus than before during early pregnancy, but this is not the same for everyone.
What can you tell us about your experiences with this? Are you able to tell where in your cycle you are, just by looking at your cervical mucus? How do you do it?
For women with a short luteal phase, it can be a struggle to conceive. It is essential that there is a long enough period between ovulation and the time menstruation is expected, because fertilized eggs need time to implant into the lining of the uterus. When there is a shortage of time, menstruation shows up even if the egg was fertilized, and the fertilized egg then leaves the body with the menstrual blood.
Everyone’s cycles vary somewhat, and the luteal phase can be longer and shorter with each cycle. But when the luteal phase is consistently too short to allow eggs to implant properly, it severely affects a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. What can be done to solve this problem, improve a woman’s chances of getting pregnant and staying pregnant? How to increase the luteal phase?
The first thing to try, and probably the least invasive, is taking a Vitamin B6 supplement. Many women report that their luteal phase increased after starting Vitamin B6 supplements – often one or two days in the first month, but up to a week for subsequent cycles. The exact reason why Vitamin B6 lengthens the luteal phase is unknown, but most experts agree that it is closely linked to lowering levels of the hormone prolactin in the body.
Vitamin C and all-in-one prenatal vitamins have also been known to increase the length of some women’s luteal phases, so you could try either a combination of Vitamin C and Vitamin B6, or just take a prenatal vitamin. You can gradually increase the dose of Vitamin B6 to 200 mg a day, if need be.
Acupuncture, and herbal supplements like fenugreek, dong quai, and red clover, can also play a role in lengthening the luteal phase. These are powerful methods, but they need to be used with caution, as they are dangerous when administered by people without sufficient knowledge. Unfortunately, due to the unregulated nature of alternative medicine, there is a lot of quackery in this field. If you have decided to undergo acupuncture or try herbal medications, I’d recommend you choose your practitioner carefully, and only on the basis of personal recommendations.
Failing those methods, progesterone creams might help resolve a Luteal Phase Defect. Many progesterone creams are available over the counter, though it is probably best to discuss the use of such creams with a doctor before starting. Progesterone creams do just what their name suggests – they increase progesterone levels that are so essential in the luteal phase, through direct application to the skin. It is best to vary the location where you apply a progesterone cream. Neck, arms, thighs and chest are the best areas for progesterone cream application.
Finally, there is the fertility drug Clomid. While this popular drug is mainly known for its ovulation-stimulation properties, Clomid can also be used to correct a Luteal Phase Defect in some women. Deciding to use Clomid (after careful consultation with your healthcare provider) is a big step, and not without risks and side effects. But at the same time, Clomid has helped many thousands of women achieve their dreams of motherhood.
The luteal phase is the second half of a menstrual cycle – the time in between ovulation and the onset of the next period. The average luteal phase lasts 14 days. Although its length can vary a little from woman to woman, as well as from cycle to cycle, there is a problem when the luteal phase is longer than 17 days or shorter than ten days.A luteal phase that is insufficiently long to allow a fertlized egg to be implanted into the lining of the uterus is referred to as a Luteal Phase Defect, or LPD. Most doctors will diagnose LPD if a woman’s luteal phase lasts less than ten days.
The problem with Luteal Phase Defects is not a lack of ovulation, or difficulty for an egg to be fertilized. Women who suffer from Luteal Phase Defects can often get pregnant with no difficulty, but because the luteal phase is too short, the fertlized egg will simply be washed out together with the endometrium at the onset of menstruation.
LPD has three main causes. When the corpus luteum, the small “bag” that forms from the ovarian follicles that is responsible for expelling hormones that help sustain early pregnancy, does not produce sufficient amounts of progesterone, it will result in a luteal phase that is too short. Additionally, the uterine lining in which an egg would normally implant may not form properly, or may even fail to develop at all.
Another possible cause is a lack of Follicle Stimulating Hormone or FSH, which plays a key role in the development and maturation of ovarian follicles. Again, this prevents the corpus luteum from fulfilling is duties. It is important to stress that failure of the corpus luteum can even manifest itself when the ovarian follicles were fully formed.
Luteal Phase Defect can be treated with a variety of medications and herbal treatments, depending on the root cause of the LPD. Vitex and Vitamin B6 are often cited as natural remedies for hormonal imbalances that cause LPD. Progesterone cream and even Clomid are more invasive methods of attempting to cure a Luteal Phase Defect.
If you have personal experience with Luteal Phase Defect, I’d love to hear what you are doing to try and cure it, or how you succeeded in lengthening your luteal phase. Did you get pregnant after having a Luteal Phase Defect? Please tell us your story!
Just like there are many methods available to women to help increase the chances of pregnancy, there are quite a few techniques that can be used to avoid conceiving as well. Natural Family Planning, NFP, is one such method. Natural Family Planning is the only contraceptive method that is approved by the Catholic Church, and it refers to periodic abstinence to avoid getting pregnant. How does it work, and when does the Vatican say this method is justified?
As all of you who have been charting to conceive, or using ovulation tests, know, women ovulate only once in their menstrual cycle, and ovulation tends to turn up roughly 14 days before the onset of menstruation is expected. Those who participate in Natural Family Planning use this fact to avoid having intercourse during their perceived most fertile days. Women are not able to conceive if they are abstinent in the first half of their cycles, during pregnancy, while they are breastfeeding (more about this in birth control after pregnancy), or after the menopause. NFP users use this knowledge to prevent pregnancy.
The Catholic Church agrees that sexual intercourse can be more than a means of creating new life, and that it serves its purpose in bringing married couples closer together. While they still maintain that sex is primarily for procreation, they also accept that married partners will have intercourse for reasons other than to get pregnant. So, when is NFP acceptable? Apparently, when there are serious circumstances that would make pregnancy undesirable at certain times. I guess that could refer to illness, job loss, housing difficulties, or financial troubles of some other kind.
The Vatican maintains that NFP should not be used in the long-term, and that artificial contraception methods like the pill, condoms, or a coil are not acceptable. Natural Family Planning used during times when the woman is not pregnant, breastfeeding, or post-menopausal can rely on symptoms like changing cervical mucus or basal body temperature, or they can rely on arbitrary dates that assume women wont get pregnant in the second half of her cycle, during the luteal phase.
Being intimately acquainted with the details of your menstrual cycle can really improve your chances of getting pregnant. Using ovulation test strips is only the start! Read on to find out what the luteal phase of your cycle is all about, and how to calculate the length of your own.
The menstrual cycles phases
Menstruation may seem like a monthly event. In between two periods, youve got a break. The whole menstrual cycle is, in fact, a continuum of events. You count a menstrual cycle from the first day of a period. That day also signifies the start of a new follicular phase. The hormone estrogen dominates this first part of the cycle. The uterine lining builds up, preparing for a possible pregnancy as follicles are also working on developing. Ovulation is the second part of the menstrual cycle. A surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) occurs, followed by the release of an egg. This surge in LH is what ovulation tests measure. The egg remains viable for 24 hours after its release. This is the time at which you can get pregnant.
After ovulation is finished, your luteal phase commences. The luteal phase is the part of your cycle that lasts from the end of your ovulation to the next expected period. In cases where conception occurs, the fertilized egg travels down to the uterus and starts to nestle in its lining. This process takes from seven to 10 days. If no egg was fertilized, or the fertilized egg did not manage to implant, menstruation will start. The average luteal phase lasts 14 days. Some womens luteal phases are longer, while a luteal phase shorter than seven days can pose a real problem. This is called a Luteal Phase Defect (LPD). More about that later.
The key to identifying your luteal phase (and how long it lasts) is to know when you ovulate. Women who are interested in finding out when they are fertile have quite a few different options. Ovulation predictor kits are perhaps the simplest way to find out if you are fertile — every woman is familiar with peeing on a stick, I am sure! An ovulation calendar is a handy tool that calculates the date of your ovulation by using data about your cycles length and the date of your last period. Then, there is fertility charting, a method in which you measure your temperature to figure out when you ovulate.
You can also watch out for your bodys natural ovulation symptoms. Egg-white, stretchy cervical mucus is a great indicator of approaching ovulation. Dont you think you could monitor your own cervical mucus? It is actually a very reliable method, once you familiarize yourself with various types of mucus that appear at different times in the cycle. Some women also have tender breasts, a slight spotting, or ovulation pain.
Knowing when you ovulate has some very obvious benefits for those who are trying to get pregnant, but being aware of the length of your luteal phase also has advantages. For one, you can use an ovulation calendar much more accurately. Additionally, knowing how long your luteal phase lasts means you can watch out for problems with your menstrual cycle more easily.
Luteal Phase Defect
A Luteal Phase defect or LPD is a problem in which the luteal phase of a womans menstrual cycle is too short. Women with a luteal phase defect do not suffer from a lack of ovulation, or another infertility problem, but they are unable to get pregnant. An egg can be fertilized without problems, but the luteal phase is too short to allow it to nestle into the lining of the uterus. Menstruation comes along, and any potential fertilized eggs are flushed out.
There are several possible causes of a luteal phases defect, but insufficient levels of the hormone progesterone (produced by the corpus luteum, a product of ovarian follicles) are usually responsible. You may have a luteal phase defect if the time between ovulation and the next menstruation is less than ten days. Any woman who thinks this applies to her should see her doctor, especially if she has been trying to get pregnant without success for a while.
Periods — they are hardly something women look forward to, but they are so important! Being intimately familiar with your menstrual cycle is beneficial for you, whether you are hoping to conceive soon or are actually trying to avoid a pregnancy. So in this post, were going to review some nifty facts about the menstrual cycle with the help of an equally nifty infographic that was created for Pregnancy Awareness Week 2013.
Periods — Who Needs Them?
Just joking. I mean who gets them? Today, girls generally start menstruating somewhere between ages 10 and 14. Some can start their monthly cycle at as early as eight years of age. This means that for those who have daughters, it six or seven is definitely not too early to start educating them about puberty and menstruation. No girls should have to be terrified at that period, because she has no idea what it is!
Young girls who have recently started menstruating are likely to have very irregular cycles. This is normal, and therefore nothing to be worried about. Still, it is a good idea for every girl who has had her first period to go for her first OBGYN checkup, to make sure she understands the basics and so that she can ask any questions she would rather not discuss with her parents. Many cycles in young girls are anovulatory, which means they dont ovulate every month.
By the time a girl has been menstruating for a few years, cycles typically start to become more predictable, and ovulation will come every month. Women are in their peak fertility years between 20 and about 35, but will continue to menstruate until their mid-forties or a little bit beyond. Your average woman has about 500 menstrual cycles throughout her life. The menopause can be a somewhat sad process for some, while others celebrate the fact that they dont have to go through monthly bleeding any more.
Stages Of The Menstrual Cycle
The infographic in this post says the menstrual cycle has three phases. Some sources prefer to include only two — the follicular and luteal phase — but ovulation is indeed such an important event that it is worth assigning it its very own phase in the cycle. Hormones that are regulated by three parts of the body play a role in the menstrual cycle. These hormones are regulated by the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the ovaries. Theyre estrogen, progesterone, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH).
The first part of the cycle, the follicular phase, is the stage in which follicles mature. One follicle starts dominating, and this will become the egg released at ovulation that month. The follicular phase starts with menstruation (which itself lasts between four and six days on average) and continues until ovulation. Ovulation lasts between 12 to 24 hours, which is when the egg is viable and can be fertilized.
As you can see from the infographic, most of the days of the follicular phase are theoretically considered fertile days. This is because you may not be sure when you ovulate, and pregnancy can result from intercourse you have up to six days before ovulation. Sperm is more durable than some give them credit for — these guys can survive for six or seven days within a womans reproductive system! The one to two days before ovulation are still considered to be the most fertile.
That means you have the highest chance of getting pregnant if you know about your most likely ovulation date before it actually arrives. For this reason, an ovulation calendar is a wonderful addition to ovulation tests.
After ovulation has passed, the hormone progesterone will dominate. That fact comes with a number of indications that you can follow. The luteal phase of the cycle is noticeable because your temperature actually goes up about half a degree. Cervical mucus is another indication that you have ovulated, and this one is even easier to track than your temperature. Luteal phase cervical mucus is thick, a creamy white, and not slippery like ovulatory cervical mucus.
I hope youve enjoyed this brief review of facts surrounding the menstrual cycle, and that you can use these bits of knowledge in your quest to conceive or to avoid pregnancy. Some women rely solely on nature (the information their cycle gives them) to avoid pregnancy. If this is something that interests you, read about Natural Family Planning.