What’s the deal with cervical mucus? If you’re a guy, cervical mucus might not be something you are familiar with, but it could actually be the magic ingredient that helps you on your fertility journey. Here we’ll bring you up to speed on all things cervical mucus, so you can be a proactive, supportive and informed partner.
What is Cervical Mucus?
Cervical mucus is a fluid produced by the cervix. The cervix sits at the top of the vaginal canal and protects the opening to the uterus. It’s made of a bunch of incredible things produced by the body including proteins, enzymes and fatty acids which are combined with an insoluble gel.
Cervical mucus is slightly different to the ‘wetness’ that women experience during arousal. When aroused the Bartholin’s glands inside the side of the vagina produce a liquid to make sex safer and more enjoyable. However, the mucus produced by the cervix is happening all the time – whether you’re getting frisky or not. Hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle change the consistency of cervical mucus and in your fertile window, it plays a very important role.
What is the fertile window?
The fertile window refers to the timeframe where pregnancy can occur – that’s right, despite what your school sex education sessions taught you – it’s not really possible to get pregnant every time you have sex.
For conception to take place the egg and the sperm need to be in the same place at the same time. A woman generally ovulates once a month (although cycles can vary from person to person) which means each month you have a new opportunity to make a baby. After ovulation, the egg only survives for around 24 hours before it will die (if not fertilised). However, sperm cells can live in the female body for up to 5 days, so technically anytime you have sex in the few days leading up to ovulation – and one day after – is the fertile window. You can learn more about the best time to have sex if you want to get pregnant here.
Fertility and Cervical Mucus
Cervical mucus plays an essential role in the conception and there are a few ways that it helps you on your fertility journey.
Cervical mucus indicates the fertile window
As mentioned earlier, the consistency of cervical mucus changes at certain points in the menstrual cycle. On some days it can be dry, on other days it can be sticky, and in the lead-up to ovulation, it becomes very wet and slippery – similar to the consistency of raw egg white. This is the body’s way of telling a woman they are nearing, or in, their fertile window – it’s nature’s own ovulation predictor kit.
For couples trying to get pregnant, tracking the consistency of the cervical mucus throughout the month can be really helpful for pinpointing the best time to have sex. Unlike menstrual cycle apps that simply use an algorithm to ‘predict’ the next ovulation based on previous data, taking note of your cervical mucus will give you a live update as to where your body is at. Tracking your cervical mucus alongside other key indicators of fertility – including basal body temperature and the position of your cervix is known as the Fertility Awareness Method and following this can help you improve your chances of conceiving naturally.
Sperm Super Highway
But cervical mucus is not only helpful for predicting ovulation – it’s actually a huge help for your sperm cells too! For parts of the menstrual cycle, cervical mucus is dry or sticky – which actually acts as a barrier to sperm. However, during the fertile window, the slippery cervical mucus is there to give your swimmers a helping hand. The thinner, wetter consistency of the mucus acts a bit like a sperm super highway as it’s easy for the sperm cells to swim through, making their trip up to the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes faster.
The cervical mucus during the fertile window also helps to keep sperm alive. Vaginal canals are usually not very hospitable to sperm cells and for most of the month, the environment is fairly acidic – which will kill your swimmers. However, during the fertile window, the cervical mucus becomes more alkaline, so it’s much friendlier to sperm. The cervical mucus, along with the semen, nourishes the sperm cells so they can stay alive for longer – so even swimmers that turn up a few days before ovulation have a fighting chance of making it to the egg!
Hostile Cervical Mucus
Whilst cervical mucus is generally there to support your fertility journey – there can be occasions where it has the opposite effect – even during the fertile window. These issues can vary but collectively they are known as ‘hostile mucus’ and often occur alongside other female factor fertility issues.
Hostile mucus can manifest itself in many ways – it might be too acidic due to an infection or it could be too dry due to a hormonal imbalance. It’s also possible that an immune response has caused the cervical mucus to contain inflammatory cells, which can attack and kill the sperm, even around ovulation. There are various treatments for hostile cervical mucus and assisted fertility approaches that can help you get pregnant if that’s something you’re struggling with.
Hostile mucus aside, cervical mucus is one of the biggest allies in your journey to parenthood – so get tracking!