Cervical Position and Ferning: Translating Your Physical Symptoms into Your Fertile Window!
Updated March 3, 2022 | By: Dr. Patti Haebe, N.M.D
Did you know your cervix changes position and becomes more open/closed throughout your menstrual cycle? Learn what cervical position changes mean!
The cervix resembles a little doughnut located at the top of the vagina, providing a gateway between the vagina and uterus. You’ve likely been tracking changes in your cervical mucus that correlate with your fertile window, but the cervix itself also changes position, firmness and openness, dependent on where you are in your menstrual cycle.
In order to check your cervix, it’s often easiest to place one foot on a chair or bed, inserting 1-2 fingers into the vaginal canal until you hit the upper portion of the vagina where the cervix lies. You can use your fingers to apply slight pressure to the cervix to get a feel for the openness and softness and evaluate the height by how deeply your fingers are inserted (you can use your knuckles as a gauge for cervical position).
When first beginning to observe the cervix, be patient and focus on comparing each day to the day before. It can sometimes take a few cycles to get to know your cervix!
How does the cervix change?
1. Degree of Softness or Firmness
When observing the feel of the cervix, you’ll want to notice if it feels soft or firm. A fertile cervix is soft, just like the apple of your cheek feels when you poke it, it’s very pliable and squishes with ease.
When a cervix feels firmer, much like the tip of your nose, this indicates an infertile time period.
Perhaps it's somewhere in-between! It takes some time to get your fingertips accustomed to noticing the subtle changes, but with practice you’ll begin to notice your body’s unique variances.
2. Degree of Openness or Closure
The cervix is shaped like a tiny doughnut, with a small hole in the middle that is the passageway from the vagina into the uterus. This hole is called the “Os” which means “opening”. During your most fertile times of the month, the Os of your cervix will be open and then will quickly close after ovulation, often around your peak day. You’ll notice the Os gradually opening as you approach the middle, more fertile time of your cycle.
For women that have previously given birth vaginally, it is said that the Os turns from a circle into a smile! It becomes more of a linear elongated opening, but the opening and closing of the Os can still be palpated, just with a mildly different feel that you’ll get accustomed to.
3. Vaginal Canal Position
Believe it or not, your cervix moves up and down throughout the menstrual cycle. You may notice that as you approach your fertile window, your cervix is almost too high to feel! The cervix rises at the beginning of your fertile window and lowers after ovulation.
This change in position can be noted by the changes in depth from the opening of your vagina to the cervix, using your fingers!
Cervical Positioning and Fertility
What are we looking for?
When trying to conceive, the more information we can collect, the better! When it comes to cervical position, the ideal fertile pattern appears to be a soft (like the apple of your cheek), high-positioned cervix with an open Os. These changes will also likely be accompanied by wet, slippery cervical mucus.
If tracking temperature simultaneously, it’s likely that the first day the temperature spike appears the cervix will be firm, low and closed, just as it is at the end of your period, and indicates an infertile time period.
Ferning Cervical Mucus
Cervical mucus changes throughout the month dependent on the hormones that are present; ferning confirms the presence of fertile mucus.
When your body nears its fertile window, estrogen levels spike to trigger ovulation. With this increase in estrogen, your cervical mucus also changes!
You may already be tracking cervical mucus, noticing raw egg-white consistency, creamy, sticky or dry by the feel of your fingers. This gives us essential clues to our fertile window; the egg-white cervical fluid that is present right before ovulation is our best indicator for fertility.
If you have a microscope handy, you can actually view something called “ferning” of fertile cervical mucus. When fertile cervical mucus is placed onto a microscope slide, patterns appear that actually look like a lovely fern! This unique pattern actually acts as scaffolding that allows sperm to more easily move up through the cervix and into your uterus, where it can fertilize an egg!
Don’t have a microscope? Your saliva also demonstrates this unique ferning pattern when you are fertile, and a variety of devices on the market can help identify this fertile pattern with a drop of dried saliva! When you see the ferning pattern, you can confidently pinpoint when you are most likely to conceive.
You may also notice that this fertile mucus is extraordinarily stretchy, when placed between two fingers it can stretch from one to a few inches in length, this is all due to that beautiful physiologic ferning pattern!
The dry and sticky types of fertile mucus will not show this same pattern, they will not take much of a pattern at all and look mottled or like bubbles.
Track your cervical mucus and make note of your cervical position and ferning with Premom!
Dr. Patti Haebe is a results-obsessed naturopathic doctor. She specializes in pre-conception preparation, fertility and hormone optimization. She is committed to root-cause healing through therapeutic supplementation as well as targeted diet and lifestyle modifications. Her virtual practice, Ocotillo Integrative Medicine, provides integrative consultations worldwide via webcam for those looking to incorporate natural, proactive approaches to their healthcare and fertility journey. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Haebe right through your Premom app!
Frank-Herrmann, P., Gnoth, C., Baur, S., Strowitzki, T., & Freundl, G. (2005, June). Determination of the fertile window: reproductive competence of women--European cycle databases. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16019378
Weschler, T. (2015). Taking charge of your fertility: the definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and reproductive health ; 20th Anniversary Edition. New York, NY: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.
DISCLAIMER: This is an assimilation of resources for your consideration; it should not be construed as medical advice. Speak with your doctor before beginning anything new and before stopping or stating any medications or supplements.