Are you taking steps to recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA), but unsure if you’re on the right track? As a registered dietitian specializing in period loss, I teach my clients how to recover their periods (More on that here!), but I get it – in the midst of these necessary lifestyle changes, trusting the process may be difficult at first. Lab tests do exist to determine if your fertility and hormone health are improving during recovery but luckily, our cervical mucus (CM) is also a great, at-home tool to gauge progress. Let’s dive into what cervical mucus is, how it plays a role in our fertility, and what it tells us during period recovery and beyond!
Cervical mucus is a fluid made by glands in the cervix- hence the name. Throughout the menstrual cycle, this fluid changes in texture and amount because of hormonal shifts. The purpose of CM is to help guide sperm to the egg so that you can get pregnant. It also gives clues about where you’re at in your cycle.
Here is what CM typically looks like in a normal cycle:
1️⃣Menstrual Phase (Days 1-5): When you’re on your period, CM is minimal or absent. Your body’s main focus here is to shed the uterine lining and allow for a fresh start.
2️⃣ Dry Phase (Days 6-9): Following your period, you may experience a dry phase with limited cervical mucus. This is a normal part of the cycle as the body prepares for ovulation. This is also where many women with HA are sort of “stuck”.
3️⃣ Sticky Phase (Days 10-13): As you approach ovulation, CM may become sticky and less opaque. It might feel thick or tacky to the touch, similar to glue. This may be what you’re seeing as you start to work on recovery and hormone levels begin to increase.
4️⃣ Creamy Phase (Days 14-16): As the body prepares for ovulation, cervical mucus transitions to a creamy consistency, sort of like lotion. This is another place I see women with HA sort of “hang out” for a while after they’ve been working on recovery for a number of weeks; or months if they don’t yet have all the factors needed for recovery in place yet.
5️⃣ Egg White Phase (Days 17-20): This is when you’re fertile! CM becomes abundantly clear, slippery, and stretchy, resembling raw egg whites. Its purpose is to help sperm movement and improve chances of fertilization and pregnancy.
6️⃣ Sticky/Cloudy Phase (Days 21-28): After ovulation, CM typically transitions back to a sticky or cloudy consistency. It may become less stretchy and less abundant as you move close to your period arriving.
Again, these six stages of cervical mucus are observed in healthy cycles where our hormones are rising and falling as they should. When you have no period due to HA, though, things get a little murky because your hormones are out of balance. The presence of seeing CM, especially if you’ve gone from seeing none to seeing some is a great sign of progress! However, the clear pattern indicating where you’re at in your cycle, or how close you are to getting your period back can get a little confusing. Here are six things I tell my clients as we’re paying attention to CM patterns to determine how your body is responding to proper period recovery plan:
- It’s normal to not have much in the beginning of recovery: Cervical mucus increases in response to rising estrogen levels, so it’s normal to have little/no CM at the start of recovery (when estrogen levels are suppressed).
- Cervical mucus is different than vaginal discharge: CM is a specific type of mucus produced by the cervix that changes in response to hormone levels and plays a crucial role in fertility. In contrast, vaginal discharge is a more general term to describe the various fluids produced by the vagina that lubricate it and maintain its health.
- An increase in CM means estrogen levels are rising: See more CM? That means hormones are increasing and you’re heading in the right direction for ovulation. No CM? It could mean hormone levels are still low. It’s also normal for CM to dry up right before your period, so if you experience an increase in CM followed by a dry couple days, this may mean that you ovulated and a period is on the way!
- Fertile CM will be clear, stretchy and resembling a raw egg white: You may start to notice changes in your CM as your body recovers, but true fertile cervical mucus will be clear and stretch ~1 inch between your thumb and index finger. This is fertile CM so if you’re trying to conceive, seeing EWCM is your clue to get busy with the baby dancing!
- The Amount of CM You See May Vary: Some people will notice CM when they wipe after using the bathroom, while others may have to check their cervix to see if any mucus is there. You don’t need a ton to get pregnant, but seeing no fertile CM is a sign that hormones may be too low to support fertility.
- CM during HA Recovery Doesn’t Always Follow a Clear Pattern: CM can be a great tool to help determine if you are making progress in your HA recovery, but know that your CM may not perfectly follow this progression as your hormones are just starting to normalize. As you get farther into recovery and have multiple, healthy cycles, you will start to notice more clear patterns of CM.
Want to get a Better Understanding of your Cervical Mucus?
In the Food Freedom Fertility Society (FFF), we often refer to menstrual cycles as being a report card for your reproductive health; when your monthly bleed is consistent, on time, and an appropriate length, we can be confident that your hormones are rising and falling as they should. Along these lines, CM is a progress report that lets us know if we are on the right track during recovery. When used in conjunction with tracking other fertile signs, we can get a pretty good idea at how you’re responding to a proper recovery plan giving you the confidence you’re on the track and your period WILL return. Proper CM tracking also allows our clients to get pregnant rather quickly during HA recovery, some even before they get a recovery period!
Interested in joining the FFF to learn more about CM tracking and restore your fertility ASAP? Click below!