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Confused about your cervical fluid? You don’t have to be.

wrote this on July 6, 2016

Cervical fluid can be hella confusing, especially when you’re trying to figure out if the fluid you’re seeing is ACTUALLY fertile. Everyone’s cervical fluid pattern is a little different, and it won’t always follow the stereotypical “sticky” → “creamy” → “egg white” → “watery” pattern that we always hear so much about. Not everyone’s fluid will fit neatly into one of the above categories, but many folks assume that just because their own fertile cervical fluid can be categorized in a certain way, someone else’s can be, too. But these assumptions are doing people a disservice because so many of us turn to Facebook groups or other public forums to get advice and unknowingly end up walking away with incorrect information.

I see it on every Facebook group I’m part of, and it frustrates me to no end. But it’s really not anybody’s fault — there’s so much information floating around on the internet that it can be tricky to figure out what’s legit and what isn’t. It has taken me YEARS of working with people every single day, reading every study I can find, and literally making periods my job to finally feel confident as f*** about the characteristics that are truly universal when it comes to fertile cervical fluid. Changing the way I thought about fertile cervical fluid turned everything I first learned about fertility tracking on its head, and I’m hoping this post will do the same for you.

Here are some super common myths I’ve heard about cervical fluid, along with the RIGHT way to check, categorize, and decipher it.

Myth #1: Cervical fluid that stretches should be categorized as “egg white”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone on a Facebook group ask for advice about how to decipher their stretchy fluid and be met with “If it’s stretchy, it’s DEFINITELY egg white!” It’s a very common misconception that all stretchy cervical fluid is fertile and should be categorized as such. But that is absolutely not the case! There’s a large subset of folks whose cervical fluid always has some stretch to it, no matter where they’re at in their cycle. And there are others who have fluid that is significantly stretchy during their luteal phase a week after they’ve confirmed ovulation with an undeniable temperature shift. In both of these cases (and many others), being told that stretchy fluid = fertile fluid is flat out confusing. Just recently, I personally experienced post-ovulatory (and infertile) cervical fluid that stretched over an inch. A few years ago, I would have totally freaked out and assumed that I was somehow fertile again, but now I know that it doesn’t mean squat about my fertility.

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Myth #2: Egg white cervical fluid is always clear

If you’ve been told that egg white cervical fluid is supposed to be clear and transparent, throw that thought out the window ASAP and forget that it ever existed. Can you imagine how confusing it would be to be told your whole life that ALL apples are red, and then having someone place a granny smith apple on a table right in front of you and ask you if it’s actually an apple?! You’d probably be like WTH is this mess?! You can think of egg white cervical fluid the same way: not all egg white fluid is transparent and clear. This type of fluid is often cloudy, streaked, opaque, or even tinged slightly pink or brown. It might also be a combination of several of these! Everyone’s body is a little different, so don’t be the least bit alarmed if your cervical fluid doesn’t fit perfectly into one of the typical cervical fluid categories.

Myth #3: Stretchy cervical fluid in the luteal (post-ovulatory) phase signals returning fertility

As I already mentioned, some folks have cervical fluid that ALWAYS stretches no matter where they are in their cycle. It’s also super common for people to have stretchy cervical fluid during their luteal (or post-ovulatory) phase. Cervical fluid production is triggered by the hormone estrogen (which dominates the pre-ovulatory follicular phase) and suppressed by the hormone progesterone (which dominates the post-ovulatory luteal phase), but both of these hormones are always present in some amount throughout your entire cycle. Stretchy cervical fluid during your post-ovulatory (luteal) phase gives you information about your estrogen and progesterone levels, but not about your fertility. If you’re someone with stretchy luteal fluid and you’ve been taught to categorize stretchy fluid as egg white (and very fertile) fluid, there’s a whole lot of unnecessary confusion happening. If you’re unsure about how to tell whether your fluid is actually fertile, keep reading!

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Myth #4: Stretchiness is the most important quality of cervical fluid

We’ve already established that if you’re only thinking about how stretchy (or not) your cervical fluid is, it can make categorization hella confusing! So if stretch isn’t the most important thing to look for, what is? By and large, the most helpful (and universal) characteristic I’ve found for categorizing your cervical fluid is how slippery and slick it feels between your fingers. As ovulation gets closer and you become increasingly fertile, the water content of your cervical fluid increases.

Even though this increasing water content DOES make cervical fluid stretch in many cases, that shouldn’t be what you’re looking out for — not all fertile cervical fluid is stretchy, and not all stretchy cervical fluid is fertile. But highly fertile cervical fluid will always feel slick and slippery because of its high water content! Have you ever cracked an egg, gotten the raw egg white on your hand, and noticed that it felt super slick and slippery? That’s the feeling you’re looking for! If you need to, go crack an egg, dip your fingers in, and then rub your fingertips together. Then do the same thing in elmer’s glue, paste, or even milk. Feel the difference?

In summary, stretchy fluid is not necessarily fertile, and fertile fluid is not necessarily stretchy. But fertile fluid is always slippery and slippery fluid is always fertile. Got it?!

Myth #5: It’s important to track the amount of cervical fluid you have each day

There are tons of period trackers out there that have a data entry field for the amount of cervical fluid you experience each day. Do you have LOTS of sticky, pasty fluid? A LITTLE slippery, egg white fluid? A MEDIUM amount of creamy fluid? Being asked how much fluid you notice might make you think that this is an important thing to consider, but the best advice I can give you is to forget it! Because, in actuality, the amount of cervical fluid you have has absolutely ZERO to do with how fertile you are. Whether you have a little or a lot of slippery, egg white cervical fluid, you’re still fertile and sperm can still live in your reproductive tract. Fertile is fertile, and paying attention to amount is only distracting you from what’s REALLY important. It’s also probably confusing the sh*t out of you! Learning how to track your fertility can feel overwhelming enough on its own without adding a bunch of unnecessary steps.

If you currently track how much fluid you have, my recommendation is to stop cold turkey. Instead of paying attention to amounts, focus all of your energy on categorizing your fluid based on how slippery or slick it feels between your fingers. It’s possible for sticky and creamy fluid to stretch slightly, but it will NEVER feel slick and slippery between your fingers. Sticky or creamy fluid can also be MIXED with slick, slippery egg white fluid, in which case you should ALWAYS mark both in your app and consider yourself very fertile.

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Myth #6: Checking for cervical fluid externally is best practice

Like many of you, I was taught that checking my cervical fluid at my vaginal opening was best practice and THE ONLY way to get an accurate idea of what my fluid was doing. But, again, our bodies are all different — we have different cervical fluid patterns, slightly different qualities and characteristics to our cervical fluid, and a varying number of days of fluid production — so it makes sense that the best way to check cervical fluid will be slightly different for each person, too.

For some, checking at the vaginal opening works totally fine, but for others (like myself), that just doesn’t cut it. My slippery, egg white cervical fluid is usually so springy that it sticks to my cervix and never makes its way to my vaginal opening. I used to check my fluid at my vaginal opening, but I would see and feel NOTHING and then go on with my day thinking that I wasn’t fertile. Little did I know, I had LOADS of super slippery egg white fluid that was chillin’ right up at my cervix…eek! That’s why it’s so important to try out a few different ways of checking your fluid and see what works best for you. Learn more about how to check your cervical fluid internally or externally.

Deciphering your cervical fluid can feel super confusing, but it doesn’t have to if you know the RIGHT things to focus on. If you learn and remember the simple tips I mentioned today, categorizing your cervical fluid will start to feel like second nature. Good luck, and happy charting!

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Jennifer Aldoretta is the cofounder and CEO of Groove. She is an entrepreneur, engineer, and biohacker who is obsessed with periods, nutrition, hormones, and the microbiome.