Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

How to Check Your Cervical Fluid When You Feel Like You Just Don’t Have Any

February 12th, 2013 by Kati Bicknell

In an older post I wrote, I talked about how to check your cervical fluid with a folded piece of toilet paper or your clean fingers.

BUT! What if you’re doing that and not finding anything? What if you, like many women I talk to, think that they don’t have any cervical fluid?

Well, you’re in luck, because I’m about to explain how to measure your cervical fluid, even if it seems like you don’t have any! Are you ready for this? You’re so ready.

Adapted from a photo by Lamerie // Creative Commons 2.0

Things you’ll need:

  • Hand mirror
  • Clean towel
  • Soap and water

So … it goes a little something like this — CRAM YOUR FINGERS IN YOUR VAGINA! Just kidding. Not really. Kind of. Kidding about the “cramming” thing, but not about the “in your vagina” thing.

First things first, wash your hands. You don’t want to introduce any foreign bacteria into the vagina — it’s got a whole host of its own friendly bacteria that keeps things running smoothly, and you don’t want to upset the balance.

Now that your hands are clean … wait a minute! Okay, a lot of you reading this are probably very familiar with your vagina, where it is, how it looks, and every little nook and cranny inside and out. But some of you may not be. For those of you in the second camp, there is an extra step.

Grab a hand mirror!

Okay, was that hand mirror very dirty? Did you take it out of the woodshed or something? Is it your husband’s shaving mirror? If any of the above are true, wash your hands again.

Now get naked from the waist down — think gynecologist’s office, but significantly less unpleasant. You can leave your socks on. No cold stirrups (hopefully). Now sit or squat on a clean towel on the floor, and hold the hand mirror between your legs so you can actually get a good look at your vulva (external genitalia). As women, our genitals are positioned in such a way that they are very hard to get a clear look at without the aid of a hand mirror, so unless you’ve done this before, you may be surprised at what you see. Look at how beautiful you are! So many little folds of soft delicate skin, so many different shades of color. Vulvas come in all shapes and sizes and colors, and each are perfect and beautiful and packed with nerve endings, so don’t you even dare consider labiaplasty, even if the vulva you see in the mirror doesn’t look like the ones you may have seen in certain adult movies (or Canadian strip clubs). Yours is perfect. I promise.

Have a look and a feel around! Gently spread your inner labia apart and take a peek at what’s in there. You’ll see your clitoris, vaginal opening, and, if you have keen eyesight, the urethral opening. Neat, huh? You may even see some cervical fluid at the vaginal opening.

Now see where your vaginal opening is? Gently slide one clean finger inside, see how that feels? Okay, now you know WHERE to stick your finger when checking your cervical fluid internally.

Crouch in a squatting position, and place one or two (if they fit) fingers in your vagina, until you feel something like the tip of a nose (if you are fertile it might be much softer). This is your cervix! The place from whence all cervical fluid hails! The motherland!

Now draw your finger(s) gently out of your vagina and have a look at them. They will be slightly damp, because the vagina is a mucus membrane, like the inside of your mouth, so wetness is a given. Other than that, is there any “substance” on them? Anything that looks like grade school paste, or hand lotion, or raw egg whites? If so … there is your cervical fluid!!!! You found it! Hooray!

If not, you may be a) on the pill, b) in the pre-ovulatory infertile phase of your cycle, before you’ve started to make cervical fluid, or c) in the post-ovulatory infertile phase of your cycle, after ovulation, and your body may have stopped making cervical fluid for the remainder of your cycle.

If you don’t notice any, check again later in the day, and several times tomorrow, and every day after that! Soon you’ll have something to record on your chart!  :-)

Now you can stand up, wash your hands (again), pull up your pants (this step is critical), and go about your day!

Wheeee!!! Any questions on that? Ask me in the comments.

Cross-posted at Kindara, February 5, 2013

8 responses to “How to Check Your Cervical Fluid When You Feel Like You Just Don’t Have Any”

  1. Though I appreciate all that Katie is doing to bring fertility awareness to a broader audience, it upsets me that she presents herself as an expert in a field in which she has no formal training or expertise as this latest post demonstrates. Creating a charting app does not make you an expert in the field. Additionally I am upset by a number of her posts lately that perpetuate misinformation I have spent decades trying to correct. For example, her post on BBT and now her latest post on how to rummage around in your vagina to find cervical mucus, which may be entertaining for some and daring for those who have never explored themselves in the way she suggests. However she is NOT providing accurate information. I am an expert. I do have the training and clinical experience to legitimately be designated an expert. I train people to be experts in this field. So I will correct Katie’s post here.
    If a woman is following an observational routine of wiping her vulva before and after she goes to the bathroom with a folded flat tissue and does not notice cervical mucus on the tissue or a sensation of lubrication as she wipes then that is a dry observation. If a woman finds that she never notices mucus when following this observational routine then that has significance from a health point of view. Cervical mucus in a healthy woman is obvious and abundant for several days leading up to ovulation. If this is not the case then she needs expert advice and not someone to tell her to fish around in her vagina to find “something to chart” as Katie puts it. The vagina is always producing vaginal cell slough and so when a woman puts her fingers in her vagina she will always find something. If it looks like “grade school paste” or “hand lotion” as Katie suggests it is more likely to be vaginal cell slough than cervical mucus. I repeatedly have to help women relearn how to reliably observe for cervical mucus after they have used the technique that Katie suggests or other insert your finger to finds your mucus techniques. The best experts in the field of fertility awareness agree that when cervical mucus is present it is obvious and shows up on the tissue when a woman wipes. This is not the place to go into this at length. I would be happy to speak in person with anyone at length if they want clarification. Katie I invite you to broaden your learning, and if you want to learn from me please be in touch, but please be mindful of the limits of your knowing.

  2. Hi Geraldine,

    Though your knowledge is extensive, you are not the only expert in the field, and I have studied with several. There are different opinions on the “best practices” with which to check cervical fluid.

    I’ve found that many women who find that they don’t have cervical fluid doing the toilet paper checks are able to find it doing internal checks, and have gone on to easily get pregnant after discovering this.

  3. I appreciate you comment and accept that we have differing assumptions on the point. That said, one of the most common problems I help women resolve is their confusion about interpreting their chart and their mucus patterns when they are doing internal checks. Carry on.

  4. Megan Lalonde says:

    The point really is not who is the expert or who should learn from whom. We all have things to learn from one another and there is much we simply do not know about ourselves as bodies. The question is really “What is helpful for women?”

    Are internal checks helpful for some women? Sometimes. Will they confuse many women? Yes. In this situation, as most, context is the essential element.

    Determining best technique must start with physiological considerations. Cervical mucus is a hydrogel, with water content increasing in relationship to estrogen levels. By its nature, a hydrogel is designed to move (and facilitate movement). One of its functions is to coat the walls of the vagina, protecting sperm from its normal acidic environment. With sufficient estrogen levels, the mucus will accumulate in the vagina and descend to the introitus (opening) where it can be observed by the female.

    A woman who is not observing mucus is different than a woman who feels she has no mucus. The starting point would be for the woman to review what she understands to be mucus, what her expectations are for observing mucus (how much? how often? what does she understand it looks and feels like?).

    Then, she would want to review her technique. How is she observing? When? Before or after urination or both? What about after bowel movements? Mucus observations are dependent to a degree on the normal movements of the woman – walking, standing, sitting, the contractions of her pelvic musculature to void or defecate.

    Once she has knowledge of mucus and sound technique, and there is still no mucus, then she has an indicator as to her health status. Perhaps she has a history of treatments to her cervix for abnormal cells which has reduced her secretory cells. Or, perhaps her estrogen levels are inadequate for mucus production.

    What she does with this information depends on her intentions and access to resources. Does she want to chart to avoid pregnancy? Become pregnant? Support overall health?

    A woman who does internal checks must be supported in effective technique (such as checking each time she uses the toilet, before and after bathing, before bed) and in overall health. Scant mucus, or absence of peak-type mucus can be an indicator of significant health concerns. Mucus is not lost or hidden in the vagina.

    A woman doing internal checks risks missing mucus because it may be discharged into the toilet when she is voiding or defecating. She risks missing mucus if its water content becomes so high that she cannot grasp it with her fingers. She misses out on the important indicator of sensation. Finally, a pasty, cloudy discharge collected during internal check is very likely to be vaginal cells slough.

    Internal checks will not be suitable for women with very watery mucus as it is very difficult to collect it between the fingers. It can also lead to missed mucus for women with truly scant mucus, as there may not be enough to collect or it may be discharged unnoticed between checks. Internal checks will not be suitable for women whose primary indicator of fertility is a change in sensation.

    This is how context becomes the most crucial factor in supporting women with self-knowledge and in making choices around reproductive and sexual health. What is her particular situation? Her knowledge base? Her access to resources? Her intentions?

    Our job is to consider how we can support women in access to information that is appropriate to her context.

  5. Thank you Megan for a very well thought out and helpful reply. I would hope that other readers can appreciate the careful and appropriate delineations you have made with respect to observing cervical mucus.

  6. Hi Megan,

    Well said! Thank you!

  7. Caitlin McMurtry says:

    Katie, I loved this post. I very much appreciate that warmth and humor is being brought to the subject of fertility awareness, and the observation of cervical fluid!

    I read the comments with interest. I have strong feelings about checking for CF at my cervix: it is an incredibly important part of my charting practice, as I always find wet fluid AT my cervix a day or so before it descends. If I were to check at my introitus (good word, Megan!), I would only find dry and could risk pregnancy if I didn’t go the extra step (or extra, uh, finger length?) to check the source.

    Also, since I don’t get eggwhite, my most fertile CF is very thin, wet, milky, and would simply be absorbed by a tissue — gotta see and feel it on my fingertips!

  8. Kayleigh Jean says:

    Hi Kati,

    I really enjoyed this post, and was also intrigued by the comments. I personally check my cervical fluid at my introitus and my cervix before and after using the bathroom as well as before & after showering. It’s mostly because I like to be extra careful and aware – since I learned the difference between my vaginal cell slough and my true cervical fluid, checking both places doesn’t confuse me. Like Caitlin, I prefer the extra “heads up” it gives me to check my cervix because I will usually discover a fertile quality there before it travels down to my opening within a day or less.
    I understand the desire for women to have the correct information about their bodies, however I do feel that within the fertility awareness community there are bound to be valid teaching styles and ideas that differ in nuances, though they are probably all based on real observations. I do not believe that anyone in this community would deliver false or inaccurate information purposefully or out of negligence. Ringing the bell of expert-dom and exalting oneself above others in the field who are simply sharing their experience feels a little outdated to me. I enjoyed Kati’s article and prefer to read more from women who have fun while sharing fertility awareness observations, like she has done here.

Readers should note that statements published in Menstruation Matters are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.