Natural fertility awareness – the marvels of cervical mucus that every woman should know !
Following on from Natural fertility awareness – ovulation: who knew it could be so fascinating ! here is a little more detail and an explanation on the role of the Cervix.
After a woman finishes bleeding, there is some communication via the pituitary gland to trigger a release of a hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This hormone begins to stimulate some of the follicles in the ovaries, helping them to mature, so that at the time of ovulation one will be ready to be released from the ovary.
Only the singular dominant one is released every month. When the follicles are maturing they release estrogen, which begins the body’s physical response by initiating the release of mucus from the cervix.
Now, I love talking cervical mucus! This is one way that we know we are getting ready to ovulate. It is so wonderful what happens here and the changes that take place, so I will explain some more.
As mentioned above, this particular type of mucus that is secreted around ovulation time is called Cervical Mucus (CM) because it is produced and secreted through the tiny crypts in the side of the cervix. It is not the abnormal discharge that you may experience when you have an infection or yeast overgrowth. This is very different and completely normal.
With the gradual rise in estrogen, usually a few days after bleeding has finished, the cervix begins to produce some mucus, which can initially be felt as a moistness. This is the beginning of the 'fertile phase' in your cycle. Over these next days leading up to ovulation, the CM, produced by the cervix, undergoes some changes in its consistency and integrity.
- For example, you may have noticed that this moistness gradually turns to a more slippery and then wet type of mucus. It is the integrity of the CM that determines whether or not you are at your most fertile time. This is because the mucus, when slippery and wet, provides channels for the sperm to be able to easily move through the vagina and into the uterus ... genius !
- The mucus also protects the sperm from the naturally acidic environment in the vagina – without it they wouldn't survive.
- The CM at other times does not provide this, in fact it actually blocks the sperm from being able to get through, like a barrier, making you 'infertile' at that particular time ... also genius!
So the delicate interplay of hormones enables the cervix to be very specific about what type of mucus it secretes and when. For ovulation to occur there is a trigger from another hormone, which aids the release of the ripest egg from its follicle. Estrogen decreases and therefore the CM stops, forming a mucus plug (barrier) so that no more sperm can enter.
So you are officially 'fertile' for only a few days out of every month.
As a side note, when the sperm travel into the vagina, being carried by the fertile mucus, they arrive at a safe haven, the cervix, and have a rest for a while before continuing. The sperm enhouse the tiny crypts in the side of the cervix for some time before making their way to the uterus. Here they are nurtured and nourished by the nutrients in the fertile mucus and then continue the journey in search of the egg in the fallopian tube.
So as you can see, our cervix is a rather wonderful organ and the mucus that it produces can tell us a lot about what is going on in our body.
For a start, it helps us to indicate the window of time in our cycle that we are potentially 'fertile'. This is great to know if we are interested in connecting with and knowing our body, as well as for conception and contraception.
We can also get some feedback from our CM by observing its quality and the timing. This can help us to understand more about how we are ovulating, the quality of that ovulation and whether we are in fact ovulating or not.
Getting to know 'your' cervical mucus cycle and being aware of ovulation is just as important as getting to know and being aware of your bleeding time.
There is so much that can be revealed to us about our bodies and about ourselves, the more we connect to and understand our menstrual cycle in its entirety.
Note – The Natural Fertility Awareness Method (cervical mucus method) observes and charts the cervical mucus changes to use for the timing of conception and also for contraception. Studies show that when used for contraception, it has a 97-99% effectiveness rate. It is important to have support from a practitioner/teacher of this method before using it in this way.