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?
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.
Trying to conceive is a complicated process. Whether and when you will succeed depends on a great many factors, but ovulation is one that is impossible to ignore. If youve never tried to get pregnant before, chances are that you have not given much thought to ovulating either. When you decide to take the plunge and try for a baby, all of that changes.
Go on — eat more healthily and exercise regularly. Take that 400 mg of folic acid a day to build up your stores and help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. Give up alcohol, smoking, and fast food along with your partner, to increase your fertility. Have sex regularly, obviously.
All those things are great. All those things will help you get pregnant and prepare for a healthy pregnancy. But if you want to get pregnant quickly, ovulation is something you just cant skip over and ignore. Yeah, we know you know (at least roughly) what ovulation is and that it takes place sometime between two menstrual periods. But here is a refresher course.
Ovulation — whats that again?
Modern medicine is advancing at a scarily rapid pace. Despite that, women are currently still born with all the eggs they will ever have. In fact, they form in a female fetus quite early on during pregnancy. A woman will have around 500 periods in her lifetime.
Young girls who just started menstruating might not ovulate during every cycle, and the same goes for ladies close to the menopause. Your average woman will also take breaks from periods and ovulation during the course of her reproductive life, when she is pregnant and during the postpartum period. Breastfeeding can keep cycles away for a very long time. I didnt have a period for two years after my son was born, due to breastfeeding the entire time.
So, a complex hormonal process triggers the ripening of egg follicles and the maturation of some. Eggs come from the ovaries, which a woman has two of — on the left and right side of her uterus. During ovulation, a mature egg is released from one of those ovaries. That egg will live between 12 and 24 hours before being reabsorbed by the body if the egg isnt fertilized.
If sperm cells (which can live for around five days within the female body) already happen to be waiting in the fallopian tubes, near the ovaries, when an egg is released, a chemical reaction will warn them that an egg is now available, and they will start the race to get to that egg first. If the egg is already there, the resting stage will be skipped and the fight is on right away.
Its quite simple. You can have sex an awful lot of the time, but if you dont do the deed within the five days before ovulation or right after it, you are just not going to get pregnant. You can just have sex whenever you feel like it and assume (or hope) that you will catch the fertile window at some point, and get pregnant. That will indeed happen for most couples who dont have a clue when the woman ovulates.
Finding out when you ovulate
You can also help nature along a bit and choose one of the many methods that detect ovulation, either very reliably or quite reliably.
Ovulation tests use your urine to pick up the hormone that demonstrates ovulation will happen very soon indeed, luteinizing hormone (LH for short). You can start peeing on a stick every early afternoon — which is when these tests are most reliable — at some point close to most womens fertile windows. A week after your period ended is a good time to start for most ladies.
A positive ovulation test tells you that you have the chance to get pregnant NOW very reliably. You could also go for some old fashioned math, of course. Most women ovulate around 14 days before the start of their next periods. That means that you could determine your average cycle length, calculate when your next period is most likely to start, and subtract 14 days. Bingo.
If youre bad with math or lazy, online ovulation calendars will do pretty much the same thing. If youre more of a visual girl, inspecting your cervical mucus is another option. This method involves inserting your thumb and index finger and pulling it out again. The structure and color of your cervical mucus will tell you where in your cycle you are.
Is your mucus red? Oops, your period didnt quite finish yet. Is there just not a lot of it? Then you are still very much within the follicular phase, the first phase of the cycle. Increasing in amount? Well, youre getting closer to ovulation. If you have lots of transparent, stretchy mucus, you can be quite sure you are either ovulating or are really close. And heavy, white, creamy mucus? Youve missed your chance this month. Ovulation has passed and you are in the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle.
Do you like complicating your life and getting up really early? Charting your fertility is a great option for you. OK, thats not fair — a great deal of people think this method is easy to implement. Charting your fertility using basal body temperature (BBT) is a method that relies on a slight temperature change to tell you if you are ovulating. Since basal body temperature actually means the lowest temperature you attain in a state of rest, you have to take it right after waking up, since sleeping is the ultimate state of rest.
When it comes to trying to conceive, knowing your facts pays off. True, you can achieve a pregnancy perfectly alright if you simply have sex almost every day. Knowing your menstrual cycle, being aware of your ovulation date, and planning your intercourse accordingly can definitely increase your chances of getting that much anticipated positive pregnancy test much sooner!
How long does that fertile period actually last?
Almost every woman knows how important ovulation is. But, do you know when in the month you can actually get pregnant? High school sex ed teachers may emphasize the idea that sex can always get your pregnant (possibly even when you use a condom), to stop teens from doing the deed. When that teen grows up and actually wants to get pregnant, shell quickly realize that the fertile window doesnt last all that long. Actually, many sources would have you believe that you can only get pregnant during ovulation.
In truth, a womans fertile window will last about six days, as you can see in the infographic. Why, when ovulation itself only lasts for 12 to 24 hours? Sperm can actually survive in the female reproductive system for up to six days. That means that, if you have intercourse during any of the days leading up to the release of that egg, you may get pregnant. The one to two days before the egg is released are still considered the days on which you have the highest chance of getting pregnant. What this means in practice is that couples who are hoping to have a baby soon are best off having sex every day or every other day in the days leading up to ovulation. Well discuss ways in which you can detect ovulation in a second, but you can safely assume that having intercourse during that part of the follicular phase of your cycle after your menstrual flow came to an end may lead you to the winning ticket — a pregnancy!
Choosing how to track your ovulation
Every couple that is trying for a baby knows that being aware when the woman ovulates can swing the odds in their favor. With so many choices out there, it can be hard to decide just how you are going to track that egg, though! Of the many methods, some have grown to be favorites among women. Here are some choices that you have.
Ovulation calendars, like the one we have right here on Trying To Conceive, mathematically calculate on which day you are most likely to ovulate. To use an ovulation calendar, you will need to know the average length of your menstrual cycles and the date on which your last period began. Our ovulation calendar will send users an email three days before ovulation, and again on the big day itself.
Ovulation predictor kits are perhaps the most reliable ovulation-detection method. Why? These kits detect a hormone that is only released as you are about to ovulate — luteinizing hormone. This makes them just as reliable as a pregnancy test. Ovulation tests can be pricey however, but you can obtain them from cheaply at dollar stores or on the internet.
Charting your fertility using a graph of your basal body temperature is also pretty reliable. Your temperature spikes right before ovulation, and stays a little higher throughout the luteal phase of your cycle. Charting your fertility is a little more labor-intensive than other methods because it requires you to take your temperature every morning, before you actually get up.
Cervical mucus may not be something you really want to think about. Dont stop reading here, though, because that cervical mucus can actually tell you when you ovulate. Thats right! Fertile cervical mucus is see-through and stretchy. After ovulation has passed and your luteal phase has commenced, your mucus will be thicker and therefore your uterus is inaccessible to sperm. It will also be white in color.
Some women also have other natural signs that point to ovulation. Do you ever experience ovulation pain, ovulation spotting, or tender breasts during ovulation? These signs can be so reliable for some ladies, that they never have to spend money on ovulation tests!
Whichever method you ultimately choose to track your ovulation, youll boost your odds of conceiving. Good luck! Feel free to ask questions by leaving a comment below. Did you like this infographic, by the way? This is only a small part of the whole thing.
Are you trying to conceive, but suffering from painful periods, bleeding between periods, irregular menstrual cycles — or perhaps get no periods at all? What do you need to know about the cause of your menstrual cycle abnormality and how this affects your quest to get pregnant?
There is no such thing as the typical menstrual cycle.
Many women believe that the typical menstrual cycle is 28 days long and regular. In fact, average cycles can last between 21 and 32 days and still be absolutely normal and healthy. Normal menstrual periods last between two and seven days.Common cycle abnormalities
The most obvious problem with menstruation is its total absence. This is called amenorrhea, and it can have many causes — if youre not pregnant or menopausal, you may be stressed or underweight, or experiencing unusual hormonal fluctuations. Women who are not menstruating wont be able to get pregnant. If this applies to you, a make an appointment with your doctor immediately.
Around one in five women experiences painful periods, including cramping. Possible causes are endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Teenagers are also more likely to have painful periods because of an excess the chemical prostaglandin. If you are older than 20, see a doctor about painful periods. Its possible that you simply have a low tolerance for pain, but if you have a medical problem you certainly want to find out about it before you get pregnant.
Bleeding in between periods is another menstrual cycle abnormality. It may just be caused by ovulation bleeding — which 20 percent of all women of childbearing age experience — but regular bleeding in between periods can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or other medical problems. This kind of bleeding should always been explored by a competent medical professional.
What is the cause of your irregular cycles?
Irregular periods — in other words periods that dont come at regular, predictable intervals or intervals that are either shorter than 21 days or longer than 32 days — are perhaps the most common menstrual cycle problem. Irregular periods deserve their own section, because they have many possible causes and women often find themselves clueless as to what they can do about their irregular periods, especially if they would like to conceive a baby. Lets take a look at some of the causes of irregular menstrual periods:
Age is one reason your periods may be irregular. Women usually start menstruating between 10 and 16 years, and start the menopause between 45 and 55. Teens and women in their mid- to late forties normally have no reason to be worried about cycles that fluctuate in length. If you are premenopausal and hoping to get pregnant, your irregular periods are an indication that you should get in touch with a fertility clinic now.
Stress is another disruptive factor for the menstrual cycle. Both emotional stress and physical stress can have a huge impact on the cycle, but these changes are usually temporary. Have you recently lost a lot of weight? Are you a professional athlete or a fitness junkie? Are you buying a house or do you think you may be at risk of losing your job? All of these things can interfere with your cycle, and all of these things can prevent ovulation from taking place during any given cycle.
Medical problems like the ones we mentioned in the previous section can cause irregular cycles too. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, sexually transmitted infections, and endometriosis can be counted among the usual suspects. Thyroid disorders can also interfere with your cycles, and if you normally have regular periods but suddenly have an irregular cycle, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or just pregnancy can also be responsible. Not that were saying a normal pregnancy is a medical problem, of course!
Birth control is one of the most frequent reasons women who recently decided to try for a baby are experiencing irregular periods. Hormonal contraceptives can cause irregular periods, which are also often without ovulation, for a few months after you quit. This is normal, and not something most women need to fret about. One exception is the injectable birth control method Depo Provera, which is renowned for being an effective form of contraception for much longer than desired.
Finding out when you ovulate
Lets be clear — any woman who is worried about her menstrual cycle after displaying symptoms that could indicate a problem should absolutely seek medical care. The menstrual cycle is such a complex physical system that its really not possible to self-diagnose through the internet or books. Women who are trying to conceive with an abnormal menstrual cycle need to be especially diligent about seeing a doctor, because any medical problem they have may affect their baby as well.
Having said that, most women who have slightly irregular periods will be wondering if they are fertile, in other words if they are ovulating. An ovulation calendar be be a handy and popular tool among women who are trying to get pregnant, but if your cycle lasts 24 days one month and 32 the next, it will absolutely be useless to you. In this case, you could start using ovulation tests as soon as your period comes to an end.
Ovulation tests, which are also called ovulation predictor kits, work by detecting a hormone that only appears upon ovulation. When you get a positive ovulation tests, you dont just find out that you are currently ovulating; you also find out on which cycle day your current ovulation is taking place. This will give you further information about your chances of getting pregnant. The luteal phase is the phase between ovulation and the next period, and women who have a luteal phase shorter than 10 days are extremely unlikely to get pregnant. In these cases, any fertilized egg simply doesnt have the time to implant in the uterine lining successfully.