Gross Fertility

I believe that human fertility is simply wonderful. A woman’s reproductive cycle is a beautiful thing. I am extremely comfortable with my own body and have no qualms reading stories about other’s bodies involving birth, surgery, wounds, etc.

But I always find myself a little repulsed when I encounter someone writing about cervical mucus.

Gross, no?

And unnecessarily so.

The only thing gross about cervical mucus is the term “mucus.” Mucus is nasty snotty stuff associated with mild sickness and two-year-olds in need of having their noses wiped. In fact, I plan to encourage my children to avoid sex by teaching them about “seminal mucus” and “arousal mucus.” That is how gross mucus is.

There is nothing gross about cervical fluid. It is clean. It is an amazing source of life and aid to conception. Cervical fluid is beautiful.

Words matter, and we should try to use them to reflect the fact that a woman’s fertility is beautiful, not disgusting. So why on earth would we call something as amazing as cervical fluid “mucus?”

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28 thoughts on “Gross Fertility

    1. Rae Post author

      Oh, I hadn’t thought about “moist” … it’s basically irrelevant for me, and I *think* that the class we took promoted the concept of “slippery”!! but I’m not really a fan of either term.

  1. Michelle

    Sarah, LOL. I have a friend who detests the word moist. As a matter of fact, it’s kind of a joke…every now and then we will e-mail her with just that word in the email, LOL

    And I agree.

    1. Mama Kalila

      I remember someone saying she had a problem with that one… I wonder if its the same person lol. I can’t even remember who it was I heard that from though or how I know her. Sad right? Such a random word to have an issue with though.

  2. Maggie

    I’m glad you brought this up. I’ve hesitated using the word cervical mucus while explaining NFP to women who have no clue about it, because it just sounds nasty. One time I did use the word to a woman using artificial birth control who was thinking about NFP and when I used the word “mucus” she kind of got this look on her mind that was like “Ehh… never mind.” Sigh….

    1. Rae Post author

      It sometimes feels as if there is this large gap between those who have been trained to teach a method that uses the term “mucus” and the average American woman. I hope we can find better words to share the information without repulsing people! Good for you for talking to people about it.

  3. Mama Kalila

    LOL I’ve seen something to that effect before… and I agree… but for some reason (maybe because I learned it as cervical mucus) I can’t seem to get myself to start calling it cervical fluid instead. I managed to relearn the pg terms that Hypnobabies uses so I guess I should just apply myself like I did w/ that and maybe I’ll get it down.

    1. Rae Post author

      Ohhh, did you blog about hypnobabies? I must have missed it (maybe when you were private?) and would love to read about your thoughts/experience.

      And I love your openness to changing terms!

      1. Mama Kalila

        Yup… I started my posts on it before I went private and finished after I went public again lol. Every week update during the pg has a little about the class from the week and then of course the Birth Story mentions it too. I don’t think I’ve done a review afterwards, need too if I haven’t. But quite a few posts :-)

          1. Rae Post author

            Ah! Now I’m kicking myself for missing them and will go back and read them ASAP. Thanks for letting me know.

    1. Rae Post author

      I am guessing that people tend to think that whatever word they learned is the one that “fits” (I encountered both in the books that I read, and just chose “fluid” because I liked it better and it seemed fitting as it is analogous to seminal fluid).

      Here’s a question though: are you and your husband comfortable talking about cervical mucus? Online at least it seems as if there are so many women who use the term, but then can’t talk about it with their husbands, and that makes me think that there is a problem.

      1. Dawn by Design

        Yes, we are. In fact, we’ll talk about it in code and call it the “M-factor” (M for mucus) when I’m giving ‘status updates’ during the fertile days.

        I did learn the term mucus for cervical mucus and fluid for seminal fluid, so maybe I am biased. I like them better for their accuracy, though. SF is more fluid-ish and CM is more mucus-ish. There’s also arousal fluid – that’s also fluidish.

        Let me think, the closest CM gets to fluid, I think, would be during the very fertile phase when it’s wet and slippery. Actually, that’s IS very fluidish. But when it turns sticky, it’s definitely not fluidish. Although sometimes it’s pasty, and that’s not like fluid or mucus.

        Hmmm…. we could just call it cervical glue. Think about it – there are different types of glue: pasty (paste glue), thick (stick glue) and clear, stretchy (liquid glue, we have some that is clear, not white). Done. I’ve solved your dilemma with an entirely new term: cervical glue.

        We could even ‘stretch’ the analogy (while also coming up with bad puns) and say that the fertile cervical glue ‘sticks’ to the SF and moves it along to where it needs to go.

  4. Allison

    Haha! Too funny!

    I too don’t like the word moist. It’s weird.

    But I agree with Dawn. It’s not always such a fluid texture. So I don’t know that I really like the term fluid either…

    1. Rae Post author

      What terms do you think are better? I think that a lot of bodily “fluids” are not always fluid so that inaccuracy does not bother me, but I’d be happy to use a more accurate (non-gross!) term.

  5. Jenelle

    Well….we use the term mucus because that is what the doctors used. I was trained and teach a curriculum where I have to call it mucus. Using the common term is the only thing that will be approved and much deliberation goes into things like that like defining what “fertile mucus” is etc.

    I guess I may use fluid when introducing the idea to someone, but either way it is discharge from the cervix. Before I learned, I don’t think it would have mattered what term you used – that fact that I had discharge and had to monitor it kind of grossed me out. On the other hand, the term didn’t hold a lot of weight for me.

    1. Rae Post author

      I’ve never had a problem using the term “cervical fluid” and having medical professionals know what I mean. Even if “mucus” is more correct (which I’m not convinced that it is, isn’t it just used because that is the term that the Billings used?) I would assume that doctors should be quite willing to use the less “medically correct” but more politically correct term. This is what they do in terms of miscarriage (can you imagine a doctor insisting on telling a woman that she is having an abortion, just because that is the medically correct term?!) etc.

      I suppose that you have to go with your method’s terminology, but whatever it is we’re currently doing just is not working to spread the knowledge of whatever it is we want to call understanding a woman’s fertility and using that knowledge to achieve and avoid pregnancy. And it seems likely to me that you might have a different perspective on this because you’ve been so immersed in the training information.

      What things do you think most need to change to better promote NFP?

  6. alisone

    ha! so i’ve heard this reasoning before, esp. as one of the main reasons people like FA better than NFP because its done a much better job at marketing to the masses. i actually usually try to say “fluid” now in the first class to not scare people away! but i do agree with others, fluid isn’t descriptive of what you’re actually observing. why don’t we call snot “nose fluid”?
    i just had a light bulb moment though when you wrote “seminal mucus”. ha! what a smart move in ‘marketing’…

    i think we can call it less gross things in hopes of attracting people to the method, but ultimately once those people find out they have to get in there and touch and stretch the stuff, they’ll find out there is no way to get around the gross-ness :)

    1. Rae Post author

      Ideally I think that children should be raised to think of their bodies as beautiful and girls should grow up to *not* be grossed out by cervical fluid. BUT I’m also completely fine with using more appealing terms to rope people in, and then dealing with the “gross factor.” People still have sex after finding out about the gross-ness… ;-)

      1. alisone

        ok, so now that you have me thinking about mucus all day…i thought i would share my ponderings :) is it the word ‘mucus’ itself that grosses us out or does the word gross us out because it makes us think of ‘mucus’ itself? i think snotty runny noses are gross because the consistency of mucus is gross! unfortunately that’s what’s coming out of down there too. seriously, the days it stretches i’m in a careful balance of “this is soooo cool!! and gross! glad no one else can see this!”
        regardless, i’m all for changing the terms, but i wonder how many people actually don’t use NFP because of what its called vs. the fact you have to examine it? would be an interesting follow-up survey to do after our next intro session…maybe if i make it anonymous… And yes, we’re totally partial to what we learn first. thanks for calling us out!

  7. Pingback: Teaching NFP and Talking about Sex

  8. Carrie

    I love this post! I’ll be using “fluid” from now on, especially when talking to newbies about NFP. You’ve got to meet people where they are to bring them along.

    Here’s another fun term for you that our NFP teacher (the guy) used in our clasee 5 years ago and that I thought was GREAT for communicating very specifically the slick sensations….”viscosity. ”

    Ha! Makes me laugh every time.

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