What Is That Fluid? Distinguishing Vaginal Moisture, Arousal Fluid, and Semen

So you've learned all about why cervical fluid is important and how to identify it. But what about those days when you're not totally sure if what you're seeing is actually cervical fluid? Identifying your cervical fluid can be tricky when there are other fluids masking it. With practice, you can learn to differentiate between cervical fluid and other fluids you may encounter throughout your cycle.

Vaginal Moisture

A day with no cervical fluid is called a “dry day,” but “dry” can be a bit of a misnomer. Your vagina is a mucus membrane, so it will never feel completely dry. If you insert a clean finger into your vagina or glide your finger over your labia you'll always notice some degree of moisture, similar to the inside of your cheek. This vaginal moisture is not cervical fluid.  Vaginal moisture feels damp, but it is not slippery, stretchy, thick, or lubricative like cervical fluid can be.

If you're having trouble telling the difference between cervical fluid and vaginal moisture, you can use the glass of water test. Simply take a sample of the fluid on your finger and dip it into a glass of water.  Vaginal moisture will dissolve into the water, while true cervical fluid will remain slippery on your finger or form a ball and sink to the bottom of the glass.

Arousal Fluid

Arousal fluid looks and feels very similar to fertile cervical fluid.  It's slippery, clear, and may stretch an inch or two between your fingers. Unlike cervical fluid, though, arousal fluid will usually dry up and disappear within an hour or so.

To avoid obscuring your cervical fluid observations, refrain from measuring your cervical fluid when you're sexually aroused. Also make sure to observe your cervical fluid multiple times per day, every time you use the bathroom.

Semen

Both semen and cervical fluid serve similar functions in the body: to nourish sperm and provide a medium for sperm to travel. While semen and cervical fluid's qualities are similar, you can learn to tell the difference with practice. 

Semen sometimes appears as a rubbery strand or slippery glue-like foam. It is thinner and dries on your fingers faster. Eggwhite-quality cervical fluid is more often clear or yellowish and shimmering while semen is whitish and cloudy. Semen is also more likely to break when pulled, while fertile cervical fluid will stretch up to several inches between your fingers before breaking.

You may notice semen in your vagina after sex or the day after having sex. To minimize any potential confusion, practice Kegel exercises (sometimes known as the Semen Elimination Technique, or SETs) after having sex to remove semen from the vagina. Flex your pelvic floor muscles until you've eliminated as much semen as possible from the vagina. This practice is particularly important for women using the Fertility Awareness Method to avoid pregnancy.

If you're trying to conceive, wait for at least a half hour before doing SETs.  A half hour is more than enough time for sperm to swim up through the cervical fluid to fertilize the egg.

If you're ever in doubt about your cervical fluid observations, always record eggwhite cervical fluid in the app, even if the fluid might be obscured. You can note any ambiguity in the Journal section in the app.

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