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Ovulation Discharge and 4 Stages of Changes in Cervical Mucus Throughout the Cycle

Vaginal discharge cycle

Cervical mucus is an important secrete, produced by cervical glands. Its amount and consistency depend on the menstrual cycle and are regulated by the variation of basic hormone levels in the female organism. Estrogen is the main stimulator of secretion. We distinguish between 4 stages of mucous discharge: “dry days”, thick mucus, watery discharge and “egg white”. Disturbance in their order of appearance and average duration may be indicative to various diseases and provoke infertility.

Cervical mucus is discharged through the uterine cervix and thus, it has an outward flow. This out- and downward direction is justified due to achieving two goals at a time. On one hand, the mucus mechanically “washes away” bacteria, which penetrate into the vagina, preventing infections from travelling any further and causing inflammation of the uterine mucous lining (endometrium). On the other hand, the resistance that the mucus puts up against the sperm cells, which move towards it (especially along the periphery, where its secretion is much more intense), allows for “filtering” the weakest germ cells. That is to say, only the strongest sperm cells reach the desirable egg, having overcome this flow.

4 stages of changes in cervical mucus throughout the cycle

Normally, vaginal discharge is white, however, during ovulation it becomes almost transparent. Basically, we can distinguish between four stages of changes in cervical mucus:

  1. «Dry days»;
  2. Thick, sticky, creamy-like discharge;
  3. Diluted mucus;
  4. Ovulation discharge, similar to egg white.

Let us study the correlation of these phases to the periods of the menstrual cycle. “Dry days”, that is to say, when there is practically no discharge, are observed immediately after the period, and last for about 3-4 days – depending on the length of the cycle. They have to do with the increased influence of the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) over the reproductive function. This hormone is responsible for the preparation of the ovum. Glands of the mucous lining are “at rest”.

In case the woman chooses the method of following cervical mucous, as a contraceptive means, she has to maintain a register of her discharge and abstain from sexual life during the first month of keeping such a register. It follows from this, that marking 3-5 days as a bleeding period (for example marking them with letter “B”), the next few days should be marked as “D”- dry days.

The next hormone, which “takes over the reins of power” from FSH is estrogen. Its level starts to increase and ovulation takes place at its peak. But before ovulation there are another 2 phases of secretion of cervical mucus. At first, the effect of estrogen is rather weak, since the glands are only getting to work. There is little mucus, and it is thick and not transparent at all. In fact, it resembles milky-white cream. The next 3-4 days of the diagram can be marked with letter “N”- non-transparent and at the same time non-fertile, since this stage, as well as the previous one, are not intended for fertilization. All in all, there is about one week of “secure days”.

The level of estrogen rises, and the mucus becomes more and more “hospitable”. It is diluted, so that the “wondering” sperm cell can already make its way to the uterine cervix and even wait for ovulation to take place. You can mark this period with letter “F” – fluid.

The last phase of secretion of mucus overlaps with ovulation – ovulation discharge, which is transparent, can be well stretched and is abundant indeed. Exteriorly, it looks like an egg white, so that you can mark these days with letter “E”- egg. The greatest amount of discharge is referred to as a “peak day”. After this you need to abstain from an intercourse for another 3 days (in case pregnancy is outside of your plans.)

Discharge throughout cycle

Effectiveness of the described method makes up no more than 70%. It would give you more security if you combine monitoring of cervical mucus with the analysis of basic temperature. In this case the method would be called symptothermal, while its reliability will still remain not so great.

Characteristic features of ovulation discharge – its structure and purpose

It can be concluded from all the above mentioned that profuse discharge at the time of ovum’s detachment, is not for nothing. Indeed, apart from the direction, biochemical composition and the amount of cervical mucus are also to be considered, since its main purpose is receiving, nourishing and maintaining sperm cells, preparing them for meeting the ovum. It is established, that male germ cells can stay in special niches of endometrium for more than 5 days, waiting for the detachment of the egg.

It is no wonder that, even infertility can be associated with the disturbance of secretion of mucus and its composition. The presence of aggressive antispermal antibodies in discharge can be explained by immune incompatibility of the couple, while reduced secretion of mucus might have various causes – for example, cervical stenosis, which in its turn can be caused by formation of scar tissues after abortions, extraction of polyps, or operations relating to cervical erosion, etc. These procedures might cause pathologies of internal cervical epithelium, so that the glands, which are situated in the uterine cervix won’t be able to produce mucus in adequate amounts.

Certain general diseases, for example, diabetes mellitus, also affect the thickness and timeliness of mucous discharge. One of the tests for detecting the cause of infertility is the so-called postcoital analysis. It is about microscopic examination of cervical mucous 2-8 hours following the intercourse. Normally, there should be plenty of mucus. It should be light, transparent and watery, containing no less than 5 active sperms per field of view.

There are also other types of laboratory tests, aimed at the examination of ovulation cervical mucus. Similarly, the “pupil” symptom, observed by the doctor, is referred to as swelling of the external orifice of the uterus under the influence of massive secretion flow, caused by estrogen stimulation. In case this symptom is present for an extended period of time, it can be assumed that we deal with an anovulatory cycle (the egg was not detached).

Besides, the stretching ability of mucus can also be tested. In the “egg white” phase it can stretch for up to 10-12cm, while during other days of the menstrual cycle, mucus can hardly stretch for more than 4cm.

In clinical conditions it is also possible to examine the external appearance of mucus, which has been dried up on the glass slide. High content of acid in it, provokes the typical picture of crystallization in the form of a “frond”, which also testifies to the effect of estrogen.

Thus, cyclical, sequential discharge of cervical mucus is an indicator of female health. So, in case you notice that the amount of cervical mucus has reduced or increased, or the discharge has changed in color and/or smell, you should immediately see your doctor, since there can be various diseases behind it, starting from sexually transmitted infections and up to adenocarcinoma of the uterine cervix, which is expressed, among other things, in excessive production of cervical mucus.

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