Cervical secretions are vital for human reproduction and for women’s overall health. During the “window of fertility”, or time of ovulation, the cervix produces a special “fertile” fluid that supports and nourishes sperm and aids the sperm as they swim on their journey towards the egg.
The cervix is filled with mucus-secreting membranes (crypts) which respond to rising levels of the hormone, estrogen. Estrogen’s primary role is to prepare the body for ovulation. It does this by changing the cervical secretions from dry, sticky and acidic to those that are more watery, lubricative, and alkaline on the days surrounding ovulation. High estrogen causes the vagina to become more alkaline, moist, and wet.
Many FAM users will describe their “peak” fertile secretions as resembling stretchy, raw egg white or a gel-like substance that is very wet and watery. Fertile secretions can stretch 2-6 cm when most fertile, but it is worth mentioning that all secretions can stretch. The fertile fluid creates ease of passage for the swimming sperm through the cervix. After ovulation, another hormone, progesterone, kicks in which causes a drying-up pattern in the secretions and they become thicker, heavier, dense, and acidic.
One of the lesser-known obstacles in achieving a pregnancy in the absence of fertile secretions (during ovulation time). A number of factors can shorten the window of fertility (average is 3-5 days) and/or lessen the fertile qualities of the secretion. These include advanced age (late 30’s to early 40’s and beyond), medications (like SSRI’s/anti-depressants), and even restricted diets. Often, the person trying to conceive is not familiar with her secretions so this can cause a lot of confusion and frustration. The task is made easier when learning FAM with a certified teacher.
The cycle length can also affect the presence/absence of fertile secretions. If the cycle is short (under 24 days), it is possible that fertile secretions appear very close to the end of bleeding. This means ovulation occurs earlier. If a cycle is long (e.g. 35 days), it may be harder to identify the “right days” for conception.
Possible causes of the absence of fertile secretions
- Hormone imbalance (low estrogen and progesterone, thyroid hormone imbalance (seen with long cycles, more than 35 days)
- Taking hormonal contraception in the past 3-6 months
- Rapid weight change- weight gain or loss and/or low body weight/low BMI
- Over-exercise (can reduce circulating estrogen)
- High doses of Clomid (used to stimulate ovaries for stronger ovulations)
- Cigarette smoking
- Taking very high doses of vitamin C (can dry up secretions)
- Low or deficient Vitamin A
- Presence of a bacterial, vaginal infection, or a fungal (yeast/candida) infection.
- Cervical cone biopsies and cryosurgery for irregular PAP results (can cause damage to cervical crypts and reduce the availability of fertile secretions)
- If someone’s mother took an anti-miscarriage drug in the 1960s-70s (DES)
- Medications like: antihistamines (allergy), ulcers, antidepressants (SSRI’s)
- Using synthetic panty liners on daily basis (can mask/hide natural secretions)
- Some vaginal lubricants (can create pH imbalance)
Raising Vaginal pH level
If you have determined that your vaginal pH balance is “off”, cervical secretions can be improved by the following dietary recommendations (from day 1 of the cycle until the time of ovulation).
- Eat foods like carrots and orange vegetables or take supplements rich in Vitamin A (carotene), 20,000 units/day (instead of 5000 units)
- Eat foods rich in B vitamins: dairy, meat, fish, dark leafy greens, legumes, whole grains
- Drink plenty of water (at least ten, 8 oz glasses a day; (fertile secretions are 90% water!)
- Evening Primrose Oil (1000 units per day)
- Foods or supplements that are rich in essential fatty acids (EFA’s) increase lubrication and fluidity within the mucus membranes. Examples include omega 3,6,9, cold-water fish, nuts, seeds, plant oils, and seaweeds.
- Foods enriched with Vitamin B6 like organ meats, poultry, fish, wheat germ, oats, bananas, and other non-citrus fruits.
- Arginine L- rich in essential fatty acids (EFA’s)- improves flow to reproductive organs
- Caffeine reduction/elimination (coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, energy beverages)
- Freshly ground flaxseed oil (2000 mg/ day)
- Natural grapefruit juice
- Red raspberry (1000 mg/day)
- Cow and chicken liver, butter, egg whites, orange & yellow fruits
If cervical secretions are too thick, you can purchase over-the-counter cough syrups like Robitussin/Guaifenesin which will cause secretions to thin.
- Alkaline foods (to correct acidity): millet, almonds, seaweeds, yogurt, butter
- Vegetable and root vegetables: beets, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, celery, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, cucumber, endive, escarole, leeks, kohlrabi, lettuce, onions, garlic, ginger, parsley, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, turnips, watercress, bamboo shoots, bok choy, parsnips, eggplant, okra, peppers, radishes, swiss chard, rhubarb, and spinach.
- Fruits: apples, apricots, fresh figs, bananas, berries, melons, kiwi, grapes, lemons, limes, pears, plums, peaches, mangos, papayas,
- Herbs: red clover, marshmallow root, licorice root, dandelion, shatavari. It is best to consult with a herbalist regarding dose and treatment protocol.
Acidic foods to avoid
Lamb, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, salmon, white fish, eggs, beans, barley, buckwheat, oats, rye, white rice, mushrooms, raisins, beef, veal, cheese, goat and cow milk, wheat, corn, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit.