There sure is a lot of calculating and tracking when it comes to trying to conceive (TTC). And tracking your cervical mucus (CM) is super important for timing when you'll actually do the deed so you can make sure to hit the day before, during, or after ovulation. But what about when it comes to deciphering early pregnancy symptoms versus PMS symptoms? Can you use your CM as a guide to determine whether you’re pregnant or if Aunt Flo is coming to town? What does your cervical mucus look like before your period?
The American Pregnancy Association (APA) noted that the role CM plays when TTC is fundamental, “by nourishing and protecting sperm as it makes the long, arduous journey through the female reproductive tract to meet the egg. So, as you become more familiar with your [CM], you will be able to better time having sex in order to conceive.”
So what about the final part of your cycle, after the hopeful conception? The tumultuous end of the dreaded two-week wait when you’re trying to decide if your cramping and symptoms are PMS-related or early pregnancy symptoms? What does your cervical mucus look like before your period as opposed to early pregnancy?
Some women produce clear, watery discharge right before they start their periods, while others have no secretions whatsoever. According to Dr. Adrienne Zertuche, an OB-GYN at a division of Atlanta Women’s Healthcare Specialists, right before your period and “after ovulation, most women return to having no cervical secretions for the remainder of their cycle.” However, if you do have discharge before your period, clear, watery discharge may almost look like ovulation CM, but typically, most women are no longer ovulating at that point. Plus, women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) like myself can produce CM that looks like egg-white creamy mucus — fertile CM — throughout their entire cycle, so it may be harder for those women to know exactly when they’re ovulating based on CM alone. Because of course it is.
As far as early pregnancy discharge, according to Kameelah Phillips, an OB-GYN and founder of OBaby, what early pregnancy discharge looks like depends on the woman. “For many women, it increases in volume and is white and creamy,” she says in an email interview with Romper. “A discharge should not itch or have a foul odor, and it is generally not the clear, sticky discharge associated with ovulation."
So how exactly does tracking your fertility via checking your CM help you plan for pregnancy? Is it a reliable method? Zertuche says while it is a component of fertility awareness-based (FAB) method to prevent or plan pregnancy, other strategies that go along with it and make it more effective are monitoring your menstrual timing and your basal body temperature. “Most gynecologists are accepting and even encouraging of [FAB] methodology for women attempting pregnancy. However, the FAB method is not a top-tier strategy for pregnancy prevention, as more than 20 percent of typical users fail in execution and end up with an unintended pregnancy. You should sit down with your gynecologist to hear about the full range of contraceptive options before deciding to use fertility awareness-based methods,” she recommends.
The best and most accurate way to check your CM, according to the APA, is to check with your finger after a bowel movement, and not necessarily just looking on the toilet paper or your underwear. “To do this, wash and dry your hands well, then insert your middle or index finger into your vagina, getting as close to your cervix as possible. Remove your finger and observe the consistency of the mucus sample by rolling the mucus between your thumb and finger, pressing your fingers together, and then slowly moving them apart,” the APA explained. If the fluid stretches in between your fingers, that’s considered egg-white CM, which is the best type for conception. If there’s nothing there after you know you’ve ovulated, don’t fret — that’s pretty normal.
Every woman is different when it comes to her “secretions.” Just because you’re dry as a desert down there right before you’re scheduled to have your period doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the running for conceiving this month. Likewise, if you’re producing a ton of creamy mucus right before your period, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant. Try not to stress too much and happy tracking.
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