Conception 101 articles

Mosie was created by Maureen and Marc Brown, who learned about fertility and conception the hard way. Maureen has written a variety of articles based on her own experience and research that will help guide you through the process and hopefully make life a little easier for you. Have an idea for an article that you think would be helpful? Let us know.

And if you haven't already check out Maureen's Conception 101 videos for bite-size morsels of conception wisdom!

 

Making Friends with your Cervix

Maybe you don’t know your cervix very well, and that’s okay. But if you’re trying to chart your cycle, it’s time for you two to become pals.

How to Find your Cervix

Now that you know what your cervix is, here’s how to find your sometimes elusive friend.

Understanding your Goo

Tracking your cervical fluid is key to tracking your fertility. Here’s how you do it.

Basal Body Temp for Fertility Tracking

A brief word on using basal body temperature to chart your ovulation.

Fertility and Conception Hacks

Some tips for tracking your cycle that can help maximize your chances of getting pregnant. 

Making Friends with your Cervix

by Maureen Brown

If you are like me, and I consider myself like most women, you probably have no idea where your cervix is located. I have to admit, before trying to conceive (aka TTC — see our glossary for common fertility acronyms), I truly had no idea what was inside my vagina. In no way had I explored it, and I could have happily lived my life not knowing what was in there. It's this inner world that, quite frankly, I didn’t think about.

So as my journey to be a mother got longer and longer, I began to educate myself. I read many books, the best of which you can find in our Recommended Resources.

The first tip was to figure out when you're ovulating. "Look for the egg-white discharge" was the common advice, referring to your cervical mucus. This is totally confusing. While it’s a commonly held belief, it doesn't actually guarantee your optimal time for conception. Beyond that, egg whites are not white — they’re clear. There is a time in your cycle when the discharge is white, and another when it is clear. And then there’s a time when it's in between. Unfortunately, I could not decipher exactly what was the perfect "egginess" for conception. If you are as confused as I was, then take a look at our Understanding your Goo article.

The next thing I learned was finding your cervix is key. Say what? Where's that? Someplace in my vagina? Uhhhhhhh, ok.  

Why is the cervix so important to understanding your fertility?

Simply put, the cervix is the gateway to conception. Aside from complex fertility treatments, it’s not possible to get pregnant without getting semen past the cervix.

The cervix is the gateway to the uterus and fallopian tubes, where the sperm and egg rendezvous. It's their mutually agreed upon location to meet. If they meet, then successfully do their thing, then you will be on your way to motherhood.

Ladies, I am going to break it down for you real simple: this is the best, easiest, and fastest way to understand your fertility cycle. Your cervix actually changes in position and texture, indicating when your body is most fertile and least fertile. It’s also the source of your cervical mucus, and for some finding the cervix is the only way to identify exactly what type of fluid is being created — sperm-friendly fluid or not so sperm-friendly. 

Forget your period "cycle," which is based on days — and most women I know are not exactly 28 days every single time like clockwork. If you are, I am jealous. I am talking about knowing when your body starts releasing the hormones signaling that it's time to drop an egg. That’s when you know it's time to get busy making a baby!

And that’s why you need to make friends with your cervix. Get very comfortable with the idea that you’re going to discover and understand parts of your body that you never expected to discover or understand. While it may seem weird or messy or just something you’ve never thought about, it’s the absolute best way to take charge of your fertility (yes that’s a reference here to the guru herself, Toni Weschler) and help yourself get pregnant. 

Here are the next steps to growing your relationship with your cervix:

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How to Find your Cervix

by Maureen Brown

If you haven’t heard, making friends with your cervix is a great thing to do when you’re trying to get pregnant. But how do you find your cervix? 

First of all, it will take a few tries. Forget about figuring out what your cervical mucus is telling you for now. Just start with this one thing, perfect it, then move on to the fluid. Once you find your cervix and then combine that knowledge with observations on your fluid it is sooooo much easier to understand the stuff mother nature does down there.

How to find your cervix:

  • Always wash your hands first — protect that special lady part of yours.
  • If you take a shower at the same time every day, that’s the best place to start.
  • Give yourself a little bit of time the first time you do it. It took me waaaay longer than I thought it would, but still it was truly just a few minutes.
  • Squat. Spread your legs so you are comfortable and balanced. The key is to not tense up, so take a breath.
  • If you can, put your weight on the balls of your feet. That will help you reach more accurately toward the back of your vagina, where your cervix sits. Balance yourself against a wall if needed.
  • Use your middle finger. Take your middle finger and just shove it up there, ever so gently of course.
  • Feel around. Your vaginal walls will be super mushy. Your cervix will be the only thing in there that is textured differently. It’ll be like a bump on the wall.
  • Once you find it. Take your time feeling it. Note what it’s like to touch it, the pressure or sensations you feel should be different than when touching your vaginal wall.

What does the cervix feel like?

Everyone says it feels like your nose. I kept looking for something like that, but never thought it felt like my nose.
 
For me, that first time, it was less about what the cervix felt like and more about what my vagina felt like. Honestly, I don't think I was sure I found my cervix for about three days. And here's what I'd say it felt like: pucker your lips, then press your middle finger to them. Imagine that your nose is behind that. That is what it feels like — a really squishy nose.
 
Of course, your cervix will feel different at different points in your cycle. But in some sense it is always that combination of squishy cartilage. It’s just that its level of squishiness and location will change as your body prepares itself to release an egg.  

Tracking your cervix

Tracking your cervix is the key to unlocking the mystery of your cervix and your cervical fluid. You need to recognize what it feels like when you're not fertile in order to recognize what it feels like when you are fertile. You’ll also automatically see the type of fluid coming from your cervix when you pull your finger out, helping you better understand what your fertile fluid looks like.
 
When you are fertile, your cervix softens. When you aren’t, it hardens.
 
When you are fertile, the cervix opens and lets flow all the wonderful egg-white transparent fluid that sperm love. When you aren’t, the cervical opening is closed, there’s less fluid, and it’s often thicker, whiter, and almost clumpy.
 
When you are fertile, the position of your cervix in your vagina changes, moving higher (and sometimes harder to reach with your finger — take note of this, it can be extremely helpful to know about your body). When you aren’t fertile, your cervix is lower in the vagina and easier to locate.

Tips for Tracking Your Cervix

  • Be patient. You'll need to do this for a full cycle, up to when your period starts. That's about 21 days of your life, but those 21 days will be your best empowerment tool on your path to pregnancy.
  • Do it the same time every day, starting after your period ends until the first day of your next period. After this first cycle, you'll only really need to pay attention about 10 days a month. And if you're super aware, that could even become about 6 days.  
  • Document what you find! You’ll forget, and come next month you'll be scratching your head trying to remember exactly what it felt like. I recommend using app, and you can find some of my favorites in our Recommended Resources. Of course, you can always just write down a note or symbol on your calendar.

So take a moment and get to know yourself.  When you think you've found your cervix, press on it. Your vagina is squishy and soft. Your cervix will be the only thing you find in there that is like a solid (yet also squishy) surface. Even when it's in the "hard" stage, it is still kind of rubbery and squishy.
 
Keep checking your cervix at the same time every day. If you have an idea of when you are supposed to ovulate, keep it in mind but don't let that be your only guide. The standard doctor response is that it is 14 days after the start of your period. Remember, this is if you are a regular gal on a 28-day cycle. For my first year of trying to get pregnant after getting off of birth control, I was all over the map. One cycle was 30 days, one was 26, the next was 32.
 
Once you’ve found your cervix, here’s a handy breakdown of the signs that it’s fertile.

Not Fertile Cervix

  • Cervix is easily reachable and lower in the vagina
  • Cervix is hard
  • Cervical opening is closed
  • Cervix is releasing thick, white, mucus-like fluid, often clumpy.

 

Fertile Cervix

  • Cervix is high up in the vagina
  • Cervix is rather soft and extra squishy
  • Cervical opening is open
  • Cervix is releasing clear, lubricant-like fluid

 

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Understanding your Goo

by Maureen Brown

During a woman’s cycle, she will experience different stages and amounts of cervical fluid. The amount varies from woman to woman, but the type and consistency of the fluid is relatively similar across the board.

Here are three ways to confirm what type of fluid you are producing on any given day. If you're like me, you may have to use all three to confirm.

  1. Slowly wipe your vagina with toilet paper, pulling the toilet paper a little away from your vagina as you do. Look at the discharge. Did it create a stringy strand between your vagina and the toilet paper as you pulled away? Did you see nothing? Is it clumpy or liquid-like?
  2. Examine your underwear. Do you have discharge on your underwear? Is it really wet and gooey? Is it yellowish or white and pasty?
  3. Take your finger and stick it in your vagina. If you are tracking your cervix, then you will already be doing this — great job! This is the most surefire way to tell if you’re ovulating based on the color and consistency of your fluid. What do you see on your finger? Can you roll that sticky stuff between your thumb and your finger? What kind of consistency does it have? Is it clear and transparent?

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Basal body temperature charting

by Maureen Brown

Many women find it helpful to track their cycle by charting their changes, and the most common thing to chart is your basal body temperature (or BBT — see our glossary for more fertility acronyms). 

If you are into data, this might be your thing. Your BBT is your temperature when you have slept at least 5 hours. By regularly monitoring and recording your BBT, you can track whether you’re ovulating (or even pregnant) because it will change slightly over the course of each cycle.

Personally, I was not one for charting basal body temperature, because it’s only truly clear that you’ve ovulated after the fact. I found that frustrating, but other women I know find it empowering. Charting your BBT can also be used to detect early pregnancy signs, and for many people that is the grand payoff of charting. Like I said, if you are into data, and you like knowing everything you can know, then charting your BBT and other signs is the way to go. 

If you do end up seeking help from a fertility specialist or traditional Chinese medicine specialist, they most likely will ask to see your charts. Typically you need to chart for three months to have a baseline from which to understand if you are having any hormonal issues or fertility challenges. Among other issues, charting can reveal a short luteal phase or even potential thyroid issues. 

We have a few tools in our Recommended Resources that let you track your BBT, plus other fertility signs like your cervical position, fluid, your period, and much more. Basically, they serve as a complete fertility tracking tool that lets you monitor everything in one place. Some apps also provide a great community of support from other TTC ladies. If you are into BBT charting, I would recommend the app Fertility Friend for you.

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insemination and Conception Hacks

by Maureen Brown

The fertility journey can be long and frustrating — after all, you only have a few fertile days each month, and if you miss them, you have to wait a whole other month. While there aren’t really any true shortcuts, there are a few things you can try that might increase your chances of getting pregnant or help you better tell when you’re at your most fertile. Please be sure to talk to your doctor though before taking or stopping any medications. 


Cough Syrup
Have you ever heard the term mucous membrane? There are several in the human body: your nose, your lips and mouth, your anus, and of course, your genitals. Essentially, most are places on the body where the inside meets the outside. They are called mucous membranes because they all contain cells that secrete mucin, which makes up — you guessed it — mucus!

So it makes sense that many women have reported that using an expectorant (commonly used in cough syrups) helped them increase their cervical fluid when trying to conceive. Sperm loooove the cervical fluid you secrete as your hormones surge for ovulation and during ovulation. They use it to survive in the vagina and to hitch a ride to hook up with an egg. The expectorants in cough syrup are designed to help increase the production of mucus from mucous membranes, and that affects all your mucous membranes — therefore you may see an increase in cervical fluid, too. Please note that I’m not recommending that you take cough syrup to conceive, just letting you know of its possibilities.

Dream Interpretation
Many women report an increase in dream activity, and in particular sexually themed dreams, around ovulation. I don't have the data behind this, but I can say that after seeing this noted in more than one article and book, it might have some truth behind it. And I myself have noticed this to be the case for me.

Increased Libido
Many women note that they have an increased desire to make love or are just downright frisky around the time of ovulation. It's not necessarily true for every woman, but something to keep an eye on as you track your fertility. I found this to be the case pretty accurately after my first baby, but not before. 

Avoiding Allergy and Sinus Medicine
For some women, this maybe difficult to do because of the overall effects on their daily lives of seasonal allergies. If you are noticing that you do not have an abundance of cervical mucus however, this might be a simple trick for you. Spermies need cervical fluid to hitch a ride on and survive on while waiting for an egg. Think about whether or not you are taking anything that does the opposite of what we talked about above with expectorants like cough syrup. Just as your nose goes, so does your vagina in many ways. Your whole body is connected and if you give your body something to dry up your mucus membranes, it will also dry up your cervical mucus. When TTC it’s best to avoid things that have ingredients like Loratadine or Pseudoephedrine which are found in most sinus and allergy medicines. You can check the box for the ingredients. 

Stop Using Scented Tampons and Douches
In general, it is best to just let your vagina be a vagina. Your vagina does not need to smell like flowers, it’s a vagina. When your vagina is healthy, it will have a healthy vagina aroma but should not overpower you. If you are worried about the way things are going down there and think that you are getting a little . . . funky, then it is time to check in with your doctor. Scented tampons and douches disturb the natural ph balance and environment of your vagina. This disturbance can potentially make for a challenging place for sperm to survive. 

Mind and Body
This might not be a secret, but it is quite helpful to have a healthy body and mind when trying to conceive. I know you’ve heard all this before but I say it because it’s true! Weight can impact your cycle whether over or under, as it can affect your hormonal balance. Too much exercise can also be a factor. Stress can be a factor. Essentially, you need to take care of yourself. If you know you’re drinking too much, cut back. If you’re smoking, cut back or better yet just quit. If you are a carb-a-holic, sugar-a-holic, or caffeine-a-holic, consider cutting back on those as well. There might be a detox phase where you get a few headaches, but in the end you might just find yourself sleeping better and with more energy to boot! No matter what, one thing I recommend to anyone is to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Water helps detox the body and keep your fabulous cervical fluid levels up - this makes sperm happy, which will make you happy when you get that BFP on your HPT

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