Women of reproductive age can easily learn to identify and chart the three main fertility signs in their bodies including cervical fluid, waking temperature, and cervical position.

Cervical Fluid

Once outside the male body, sperm requires an ideal medium in which to live for the highest chance of survival and for pregnancy to occur. A woman’s cervical fluid is this medium. Cervical fluid changes in consistency throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, becoming its most supportive to the survival of sperm right around ovulation. The type of cervical fluid which allows the greatest likelihood for movement and survival of male sperm while traveling to fertilize the egg has an egg-white consistency. 

Nature got it right – as a woman gets closer to ovulation, her cervical fluid begins to closely resemble a man’s seminal fluid, supporting the health and survival of sperm and increasing the chance of fertilization. A man’s sperm can live for up to 5 days when in an ideal environment, meaning that pregnancy can occur 5 days after intercourse! It sounds intuitive, but it is important to emphasize that the more days you produce high-quality cervical fluid the greater the chances of getting pregnant. Improving the days of high-quality cervical fluid should be the goal of any woman trying to get pregnant.

Portrait of young woman looking on pregnancy test
Type of cervical fluidNo fluid/  DryStickyCreamyEgg white
ColorWhite/ yellowOpaqueCloudyWhite/OpaqueClear Egg-white Red-tinged
Paste, flaky cream or even rubber cementWet & lotion-likeWatery, slippery, lubricative
Stretchiness May stretch up to ¼ inch before breakingMay stretch up to ¾ inch before breakingStretchy up to 1 inch without breaking
Sensation of vaginaDryDry & stickyMoist, cold, wetWet, lubricative
Feeling when wiping with tissueDry, maybe slight moisture or dampnessDry & scratchySmoothSlippery, gliding, lubricative. May leave a symmetrical circle of fluid on your underwear
Cycle phaseOccurs directly after your period
Hormone levels begin to rise
Hormone levels continue to rise stimulating healthy egg development & building toward ovulationJust before ovulationOvulation
Fertility Extremely lowLowHighExtremely high

After ovulation, cervical fluid quickly changes from eggwhite to dry and thick with the goal now of blocking sperm from entering the uterus while the acidic environment of the vagina kills any remaining sperm that didn’t quite make it past the cervical barrier. This sudden change to dry cervical fluid is your signal that your estrogen has decreased and progesterone has the reins. This lack of fluid should last for the remainder of your cycle.

Elements that can interfere with cervical fluid: 

  • Showering
  • Vaginal infections
  • Seminal or arousal fluid (related to intercourse)
  • Spermicides
  • Lubricants
  • Medications such as antihistamines (which will dry cervical fluid) 
  • Cough medications (which depending on the ingredients can dry or improve the quality of cervical fluid).

Waking Temperature

Out of the three key fertility signs, this is the easiest to observe. You should take your temperature orally first thing in the morning before doing anything else. Try and take it at the same time every day.

  • A woman’s temperature before ovulation ranges between 97.0 – 97.7 degrees F and postovulatory temperatures are 97.8 degrees and higher. Taking your waking temperature will require a thermometer that measures temperature within 1/10th of a degree. The temperature will remain high until the start of her next cycle. If you become pregnant, the temperatures will usually remain high until the last trimester of pregnancy.
  • Body temperature rises due to progesterone which is heat-inducing. This shift usually happens within a day or so after ovulation. So, the rise in temperature indicates that ovulation has already occurred- making it an unlikely key to getting pregnant.
  • The key to charting your temperature is to watch for monthly patterns. Look at the month as a whole without focusing on each individual day (there may be some day to day variation in temperatures- look for the average). Just before ovulation, you’ll notice a slight dip in your temperature, followed by a dramatic increase (there may be some day to day variations in the second half of the cycle also- look for the average). While charting temperatures may help you estimate when ovulation may occur in the future, remember that ovulation can vary from cycle to cycle. So your past history of ovulation may or may not help you determine the future days of ovulation.
  • There are also other elements that can increase your body temperature and may include: fever, alcohol consumption, illness, sleep deprivation, the difference is sleeping conditions (room temp, blankets) and wide variations in when the temperature is taken (when you wake up).
  • Charting your temperature daily can help you determine the length of your cycle, and if you are someone whose body tends to delay ovulation due to external factors such as travel, stress, illness, moving, etc. Once you see an increase in your temperature, ovulation has occurred and your period will usually start 12-16 days later. Charting your temperature can also help you identify if the second half of your cycle (the luteal phase) is too short to allow the implantation of a fertilized egg (short luteal phase). Having an adequate length luteal phase is critical for a healthy pregnancy to occur. Charting may also determine if you are a woman with significant variations in ovulation from month to month making it a bit more challenging to determine when to time intercourse to increase the likelihood of pregnancy occurring.  
  • While temperature helps to determine when ovulation has already occurred, cervical fluid and cervical position are more accurate ways to determine when ovulation is going to occur. What this means is that measuring your waking temperature is likely a less valuable tool in helping to achieve pregnancy than the other tools. If you have only been using temperature to help you get pregnant, at the exclusion of checking your cervical fluid or cervical position, it is probably time to get familiar with how these signs can help you get pregnant.

Cervical Position

Each month, your cervix changes in consistency and location in hopes it will allow sperm to pass through it to allow fertilization. Before and after ovulation your cervix is firm like the tip of your nose, low in position, and closed. At ovulation, your cervix is soft like your lips, high in position to support the uterus, and open to accept sperm.

Secondary Fertility Signs

The following may occur as ovulation approaches in your cycle

  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating
  • Fluid retention
  • Spotting
  • Pain, achiness or cramping near ovaries (mittelschmerz)
  • Swollen vaginal lips and vulva
  • Swollen lymph gland
  • Increased energy
  • Heightened senses  of smell, vision, taste

Dull achiness, sharp pain, and cramping during your cycle don’t lead to any conclusions as to when ovulation will occur or has occurred.