What is cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus is a fluid produced by and released from the cervix (the opening to uterus). Hormones cause your cervical mucus to change in texture, volume and color throughout your menstrual cycle. It can be used to identify when you are most fertile.
Your mucus is thick, white and dry before ovulation (when your ovary releases an egg). Just before ovulation, your cervical mucus will turn clear and slippery. This consistency makes it easy for sperm to swim up to meet an egg at ovulation. If you want to get pregnant, this type of discharge tells you it's time for sex.
Some people chart their cervical mucus to tell them where they are in their cycle. Cervical mucus can tell you when you are fertile or most likely to conceive. It can also indicate when you are not fertile and pregnancy is less likely. This process is called the cervical mucus method of natural family planning.
What does cervical mucus do?
Cervical mucus, or cervical fluid, has two jobs depending on where you are in your cycle. The first is to help sperm move through the cervix so it can fertilize an egg during ovulation. The second job is to prevent sperm or other substances from getting into the cervix.
What are the different types of cervical mucus?
Not every person will be the same, but your cervical mucus will resemble all or most of the following during your menstrual cycle:
- Dry or no cervical fluid.
- Sticky like paste. It can be white or yellow.
- Creamy like yogurt. Smooth in texture and usually white.
- Slippery, stretchy. Resembling raw egg whites.
- Wet, watery and clear in color.
The type or texture of your cervical mucus will depend on what stage of your menstrual cycle you're in. Your mucus generally starts as dry or pasty before moving to a creamier texture. As ovulation nears, your discharge will become wet, stretchy and slippery. The most common analogy used for super fertile cervical mucus is looking and feeling like raw egg whites. If you see that texture, you will know you're at your most fertile time. After ovulation, your cervical mucus goes back to thick and dry.
How does cervical mucus help with conception?
Cervical mucus plays a key role in conception. The hormone estrogen peaks just before ovulation. This causes cervical mucus to change from pasty or creamy to resembling stretchy, raw egg whites. This wet, slippery discharge makes it easier for sperm to swim up the vagina and into the uterus to meet an egg. If you have sex at this time, you increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Think of your uterus as a swimming pool, your cervical mucus as water and the sperm as a person trying to swim. If the water was thick or mud-like, there's no way a person could swim through it to reach the other side of the pool. This is how hard it is for sperm to reach your fallopian tubes if your cervical mucus isn't fertile. It's easier for sperm to swim up the uterus to meet an egg for conception in thin, wet, egg white mucus.
How does cervical mucus change throughout my menstrual cycle?
The changes in cervical mucus happen as a result of hormones shifting throughout your menstrual cycle. Estrogen increases before ovulation and makes your cervix produce the fertile, egg white mucus. It's your body's way of making it easy for sperm to reach the egg it's about to release. After ovulation, estrogen levels drop and progesterone levels rise. This rise in progesterone helps the fertilized egg implant into your uterus if conception occurs. However, this causes your cervical mucus to begin to dry up.
If you have a 28-day menstrual cycle, your cervical mucus will generally follow this pattern:
- Days 1-4 after your period ends: Dry or tacky. It can be white or yellow-tinged.
- Days 4-6: Sticky. Slightly damp and white.
- Days 7-9: Creamy, yogurt-like consistency. Wet and cloudy.
- Days 10-14: Stretchy and resembles raw egg whites. Slippery and very wet.
- Days 14-28: Dry until menstruation occurs.
Most women with a 28-day cycle ovulate around day 14. This is why your cervical mucus is slippery, stretchy and highly fertile just before the egg is released.
How long will I have egg white cervical mucus?
The egg white discharge lasts about four days. If your cycle is 28 days, the fertile cervical mucus occurs around days 10 to 14.
How does cervical mucus change during early pregnancy?
Changes in cervical mucus can be a sign of early pregnancy. After ovulation, your cervical mucus thickens or dries up, then you eventually get your period. However, if you conceived at ovulation, you may still produce some cervical mucus. This can indicate to some women that they might have conceived. In other cases, implantation bleeding occurs. Implantation cervical mucus is tinged brown or pink. This happens around your period, leading some people to think they didn't become pregnant.
It's important to note that every person is different and not everyone has implantation bleeding or noticeable changes in cervical mucus.
Where does cervical mucus come from?
Cervical mucus is produced by your cervix when the hormone estrogen rises. Your estrogen level begins low, then climbs to its peak at ovulation before dropping again. This is why you see the changes in your mucus instead of it being the same all the time.
What can cervical mucus look like?
Cervical mucus can look sticky, creamy, pasty, watery, stretchy or slippery. At your most fertile time, your mucus is slippery and watery. When you're not fertile, the mucus will be thick or pasty. Your cervical mucus is generally odorless. If it's foul-smelling, it could mean you have an infection. It's common for your mucus to be white, off-white or clear in color.
At certain times, especially if implantation has occurred, your discharge might be tinged with pink or brown. If this happens regularly, talk to your healthcare provider as it could be spotting between periods or signs of a problem.
Conditions and Disorders
What can cause changes to cervical mucus?
Certain factors can play a role in the amount of cervical mucus you have or what it looks like. Things that can affect your cervical mucus are:
- Sexual lubricants.
- Hormonal birth control.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- Other vaginal infections like yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis.
- Surgery on your cervix.
- Stress and diet.
How do you know if you have a problem with your cervical mucus?
If you check your cervical mucus and don't believe you see the slippery, fertile cervical mucus, it could be a sign of ovulatory problems, infection or other issues. Your healthcare provider will diagnose cervical mucus problems by performing a pelvic exam and discussing your health history and any medications you take. They'll examine your cervix for signs of infection, scarring or other conditions that could impact vaginal discharge.
Are there medications to take to increase cervical mucus?
To naturally increase your cervical mucus, try increasing your water intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Certain medications and vitamins are available that claim to increase cervical mucus. Before taking any supplements for cervical mucus production, talk to your healthcare provider. They will want to discuss issues you are having with conception and rule out any problems.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I check my cervical mucus?
You can check your cervical mucus a few different ways:
- Use your fingers: With clean hands, place a finger in your vagina. Remove your finger and look at the mucus. You may need to use another finger to see if it stretches.
- Check your underwear: Look at your underwear when you go the bathroom and note the discharge you see.
- Use toilet paper: Using toilet paper is probably the least reliable method to check cervical mucus, but it can still be helpful. After urinating and wiping, check your toilet paper for cervical mucus.
Pay attention to how your cervical mucus looks and feels. Is it sticky, creamy, watery or dry? If it's dry or sticky, you're probably not fertile yet. If it's wet, slippery or soaking your underwear, you are likely fertile.
How do I start charting cervical mucus to get pregnant?
Charting or tracking your cervical mucus is called the cervical mucus method of family planning. Determining ovulation is one of the best tools you can have in your toolbox if you want to conceive.
To chart your cervical mucus, keep track of the changes you see each day — the amount, texture and color. It might be helpful to use a calendar and label days as pasty, creamy, wet or dry. You're most fertile around the time your mucus becomes slippery and wet, like raw egg whites. Once you see this type of mucus, it's time to have sex if conception is your goal. To prevent pregnancy, you should abstain from sex or use another method of birth control.
If you need help recognizing patterns or think your cervical mucus never reaches a fertile stage, talk to your healthcare provider for guidance.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Tracking your cervical mucus is a helpful way to track your menstrual cycle and identify when you're fertile. Learn how to check your vaginal discharge and note your findings, especially if you're trying to conceive. Cervical mucus alone isn't a reliable form of contraception, so if you don't wish to become pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about more effective contraception. If you notice any foul-smelling discharge, speak with your healthcare provider so they can rule out any issues.
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