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Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Simple check could predict pregnancy
The technique may make it easier for a woman to get pregnant
An approximate method used by women to predict their fertile days each month may be even more accurate than thought.

Women who check their "cervical mucus" - levels of secretions from the cervix of the womb - could find it easier to get pregnant, says a researcher.

Secretions become heavier and change in texture around ovulation - the time of the month when an egg is released ready for fertilisation.

Knowledge of this has been used for some time as a method of birth control, with women trained to avoid unprotected sex during the four to five day period this happens.

However, US researchers believe that the same method may help to predict the likelihood of a woman getting pregnant during on one particular day.

Peak indication

Women produce the biggest quantity of mucus from their cervix on the day that they ovulate.

The US team examined whether it was possible to make the same prediction by examining discharge from the vulva, the area surrounding the opening of the vagina.

The researchers, from the University of Utah and US National Institute of Environmental Health, examined 426 women over the course of a combined total of 2,054 menstrual cycles. In total 111 women became pregnant during the study.

They found that conception was most likely to take place on the day that a woman produced the greatest amount of vaginal discharge.

Easy exam

Researcher Dr Joe Stanford told BBC News Online: "My results show that it is possible for a woman to determine from daily vulvar observation the days in her cycle when intercourse is most likely to result in pregnancy.

"Vulvar observation is easier, more convenient, and more hygienic than self-observation of the cervix.

"It is quite easy for women to learn with a few sessions of training from qualified instructors.

"So it does not require a physician's involvement, although a physician can also use the record of the women's observations to enhance further diagnosis and treatment in the case of infertility."

The cervix produces mucus around the time in the menstrual cycle when a woman is producing her highest levels of the hormone oestrogen, and is most likely to conceive.

This mucus actually helps the sperm to travel through the female reproductive tract, making it more likely that they will be able reach the egg and successfully achieve fertilisation.

The results were presented at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Vienna.

Reports from the 2002 Eshre conference in Vienna

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