Regulating Ovulation & Getting to know your Cervical Mucus
The monthly release of an egg is a sign that a woman’s hormones are balanced at optimal levels. A lack of ovulation, or anovulation, is often a sign that there is imbalance in your body. This signifies a disruption in the communication between hormones necessary to support the release of a mature egg and causes an anovulatory cycle. When ovulation does not occur, there is no mature egg, meaning pregnancy cannot occur during that specific cycle. Many influences can disrupt a healthy hormonal balance, including stress, infections and illnesses, poor diet, extreme shifts in weight (increasing and decreasing), excessive exercise routines, breastfeeding, fertility issues, pituitary or thyroid problems, recently coming off BCP or IUD, and traveling.
Just because you have a menstrual cycle doesn’t mean you ovulate. So then, how do you know if you are ovulating?
An anovulatory woman generally has irregular periods, long cycles, and sometimes a lack of a cycle altogether. Charting and tracking your cycle and cervical mucus throughout the month can give you a better idea which day of the month you ovulate. It is important to remember that every woman is unique, and our cycles are too. Every woman does not ovulate at 14 days on the dot. We all have different follicular phase, luteal phase, and menses lengths. This is why tracking based on apps may provide you with false estimates, and you may want to use a second barrier method if having unprotected sex.
What is Cervical Mucus (Cervical Fluid)?
Cervical mucus is fluid secreted by your cervix and is controlled by hormones. The primary roles of this discharge is to help sperm reach the egg and begin fertilization. The fluid also protects your cervix. Your mucus changes in color, texture, and amount throughout your menstrual cycle. These changes will give you an idea of what stage of your cycle you are in and, most importantly, the onset of ovulation.
Cervical Discharge Cycle
Menstruation (blood flow covers mucus, won’t be able to detect)
Dry to sticky (not fertile, “safe” days if pregnancy, not an agenda)
Creamy like lotion (egg is beginning to ripen, “safe” day)
Wet and watery (fertile - time for pregnancy)
Raw (clear) egg white consistency (most fertile - best time for pregnancy)
Back to dry and sticky (cycle is beginning again, not fertile)
If your cycle does not look like this, it does not mean you are not ovulating! This is just an idea of a typical cycle. Note that even if your cycle does not match the one above, your mucus must have a (clear) egg white consistency to signal ovulation.
*Note that vaginal discharge that’s white, thick, clumpy, and odorless often indicates a yeast infection.
Tracking Your Cervical Mucus
Thankfully, self-tracking your cervical mucus is quite simple. The two best times to check your mucus are directly upon waking and before using the bathroom. Make sure your hands are clean and that you are in a comfortable position, either laying down, squatting on the toilet, or placing a leg up on your bathtub. Reach one or two fingers inside your vagina until you feel your cervix. Simply circle around in a sweeping motion. You may feel your cervix, which is often sensitive. Pull your fingers out and rub, pull, and look at the discharge, if any is present. Record everything you notice on a chart daily: your period days, dry days, wet days, sticky days, and slippery days. Avoid checking after intercourse as the discharge present will not reflect actual menstrual mucus..
Before ovulation, estrogen is responsible for the change in discharge consistency, from dry and flakey to slimy (clear) egg whites. After ovulation, progesterone causes discharge to become sticky and thick, which stops sperm from swimming through the cervix. Lacking fertile mucus is a sign of anovulation and hormonal imbalances.
The following herbs & supplements help to regulate hormones and support a healthy ovulation cycle.
Ashwagandha: By regulating your body’s response to psychological and physical stress, Ashwagandha supports the overall health of your reproductive system. Ashwagandha manages cortisol, the hormone that can dampen sexual health and libido and reduce progesterone levels. It also works by improving the function of the thyroid gland, which directly affects the balance of all reproductive hormones.
Best taken in tincture form - 2-3x per day in a splash of water.
Rhodiola: This adaptogenic herb improves the activity of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, promoting wellness and stamina. It also helps to restore ovulation in women with amenorrhea due to its stress management and hormonal balancing effects.
Best Taken in powder form. 1x daily.
Vitex (Chaste Tree Berry): Vitex normalizes the hormonal feedback loop, which balances the hormones that regulate the entire menstrual cycle, including ovulation. It specifically supports the production of luteinizing hormone (LH), which is the hormone responsible for ovulation.
Best taken in tincture or capsule form. 1-2x per day.
Maca: Provides vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are nourishing to the endocrine system, the system that coordinates the communication and delivery of our hormones. Supporting the endocrine system promotes hormone balance and a healthy menstrual cycle.
Best taken in powder form. 1 x per day.
Shatavari: This herb regulates estrogen in the body, which contributes to overall menstrual cycle regulation. Shatavari also supports healthy cervical mucus production.
Best taken in tincture or infusion form. 1x per day.
Nettle : Rich in minerals and high in iron, nettle is a powerful ally in bringing the body back into balance. It’s deeply nourishing pre & post cycle, after childbirth, and in the case of a miscarriage. Nettle also supports kidney health, and clears urinary tract infections.
Best taken in infusion form. Sip daily.
Vitamin B6: B6 Lengthens a short luteal phase which is beneficial because a luteal phase shorter than ten days results in luteal phase defect. It also lowers prolactin levels, which is too high can stop ovulation completely. This vitamin also supports your liver's detoxification of estrogen, which helps balance hormones needed for ovulation. Additionally, vitamin B6 improves dopamine and serotonin production, “happy” chemicals, that can improve PMS symptoms. The B-vitamins work synergistically in the body, which is why it is best to supplement vitamin B6 with a vitamin B-complex. (and look for b vitamins with active forms of folate)
Vitamin B-Complex: Made up of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12, this complex assists with menorrhagia, abnormal bleeding, fibrocystic breasts, endometriosis and menstrual cramps. The best blends include an active form of folate.
Foods that contain potent amounts of these vitamins include leafy greens, beef liver, tuna, salmon, chicken, chickpeas, and potatoes.
Selenium: Ovarian tissue is the most sensitive tissue to aging in the entire human body, causing the number and quality of follicles it houses to be reduced. Selenium is one of the most potent antioxidants, which provides protection against free radical damage and inflammation that damages tissues.
Selenium also protects the thyroid from toxic heavy metals, as well as aids in the conversion of T4 to T3, the active form of thyroid hormone. A healthy thyroid is required to have a healthy period and healthy ovarian follicles.
The food with the highest amount of selenium is Brazil nuts.
Ovulation-Supporting Lifestyle Changes
Meditating for stress (increased cortisol disturbs the balance of sex hormones, and can lead to anovulation)
Have protein with every meal - plant or animal based.
Eat Healthy fats with every meal - such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts & seeds.
Do yoga/stretch as often as possible- Limit strength training to 3/4 days a week to support hormone regulation.
Drink lots of water - ½ your body weight in oz. daily and herbal tea (cervical mucus is made up of 90% water)