How do I observe and chart Cervical Mucus?

Disclaimer:  Tempdrop's app and educational recourses are intended as a guidance tool only and shouldn't replace learning and using Symptothermal method (STM) of fertility awareness to evaluate your symptoms. Cervical mucus is essential to fertility awareness charting and can sometimes be the most challenging part to master. If you have any doubts about your mucus observations, please reach out to a certified fertility awareness educator or turn to more extensive self-teaching resources. 

What is cervical mucus, and why is it important?

Cervical mucus (CM) is a hydrogel secreted by the cervix that is perfectly normal and healthy. Cervical mucus will respond to the changing levels of hormones influencing the cervix as you near and then verify Ovulation each cycle. In addition to letting us know where we are in our cycle, cervical mucus makes the vaginal canal sperm-friendly, nourishing sperm and allowing it to survive for long enough to reach the egg.

Taking your temperature and charting cervical mucus is essential to using the Symptothermal method of fertility awareness. It will let you know in real-time when the fertile window opens and is a cross-check to confirm Ovulation has actually occurred. Using temperature on its own is not sufficient (especially if you are avoiding pregnancy), as this will only tell you retroactively after you have Ovulated. 

From the beginning of each new cycle ^, any presence of CM should be considered as possibly fertile. As soon as any observation is detected, you should consider your fertile window open. Until after Ovulation is confirmed, having unprotected sex when CM is present could lead to pregnancy. 

How to Check for Cervical Mucus

Check for mucus every day, every time you go to the bathroom. Take a folded piece of toilet paper * and wipe from front to back across your vulva, wiping all the way across your perineum (the space between your vaginal opening and anus). As you wipe, feel for the sensation across your perineum. The sensation is one aspect of CM observations, and for some women, this will be the best sign if they produce scant observable mucus. Remember that the vaginal canal is a mucus membrane, like the inside of your mouth, and will never be fully dry.

Once you have determined sensation, take a look at the toilet paper and at your underwear to observe the mucus. You may want to stretch the mucus between your fingers or with the toilet paper to observe the color, stretch, feel, and quantity. CM can change throughout the day, but you are looking for the most fertile type of that day. Chart your observation and sensation at the end of the day, marking your most fertile observation and sensation of that day. On your chart, you are looking for a continuum of change for you. Focus on whether your observation today was the same as yesterday or if there was a change. 

From the start of your cycle, look for the pattern of change from dry/none to moist/sticky/creamy and then on to egg white.  You will want to identify Peak day (P) which is the  last day you observed the most fertile type for you before it changes back down the categories to less fertile/none. In many cases, Ovulation will occur on or very close to peak day. Once you identify peak day, look for a temp shift to help confirm that Ovulation was successful. A count of 3 days of less fertile mucus after peak day (P123 on your chart) and a valid temp shift will help you understand when to close your fertile window and confirm Ovulation. 

Dry No sensation of moisture
Moist Dampness or slight moisture
Wet Slippery, watery, or lubricative. May feel like a "water gush" sensation as you are walking around during the day. 
In the Tempdrop app, each of these sensation selections will be assigned a CM category in your chart if no visible observation is entered.
Wet=Egg White
Visible Observation 
None No mucus was observed on the toilet paper or on your underwear
Sticky Slight gummy, crumbly or tacky mucus. White or cloudy in color
Creamy Opaque, cloudy, lotion-like, milky mucus. Stretches under an inch. Slightly more water content than sticky mucus
Egg White Clear or partly clear, stretches more than an inch, abundant, resembles raw egg whites. High water content. Highly watery egg white mucus is heavier and doesn't hold the stretch - it will 'run' on the fingers 

Other Observations that may obscure CM

Cell slough
You may observe a smoothness as you wipe with the absence of real mucus. This is vaginal cell slough. Cell slough will crumble and form a "snow globe" effect when dropped into a glass of water, whereas true cervical mucus will retain its shape and drop to the bottom of the glass. 
Arousal fluid
Arousal fluid looks and feels similar to eggwhite cervical mucus, you will want to wait until the arousal fluid subsides before marking your cervical mucus observation. Arousal fluid may have a foamy quality to it, and it will also dissipate in air whereas cervical mucus has more staying power. 
Seminal Fluid
Seminal fluid closely resembles eggwhite cervical mucus. Seminal fluid will obscure your observations as it is almost impossible to differentiate between the two. Fluid can be present for up to 24 hrs after intercourse, some women practice kegel exercises to expel it more quickly. When in doubt, mark this with a question mark and consider it as possibly fertile. 
^ A new cycle starts on the first day of full flow bleeding that occurs around 2 weeks after a confirmed Ovulation event. If you have not confirmed Ovulation last cycle, the bleed may not be a true period and can mask fertile CM. 
* CM can also be observed at the Vulva opening or internally using fingers. This method can be confusing for some women just starting out but better for others, especially those with scant CM. Tempdrop does not advocate one option over the other, users should do their own research when deciding which to use.

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