Cervical Mucus Method

Overview

What is the cervical mucus method?

The cervical mucus method is a technique used in natural family planning. It involves tracking changes in your cervical mucus (fluid discharged by the lower part of the uterus). This fluid protects sperm when it travels through a woman’s reproductive system to meet an egg.

A woman’s body produces cervical mucus throughout her monthly menstrual cycle. The quality and amount change throughout the cycle. The changes can help a woman predict when she is going to ovulate (release an egg).

Detecting ovulation can help you identify the days you are most likely to become pregnant. This information enables you to determine the best days to have sex if you want to become pregnant. It also helps you know which days you should avoid sex or use contraception (protection that prevents pregnancy) to avoid becoming pregnant.

The cervical mucus method is also known as the Billings ovulation method.

Why is the cervical mucus method used?

The cervical mucus method helps people identify a woman’s most fertile days each month. Some women who want to get pregnant use the cervical mucus method to pinpoint the best days of the month to have sex. Women trying to avoid pregnancy may use the method to know which days they should avoid having sex or use another form of birth control.

The cervical mucus method is a type of natural family planning. It does not require taking hormones or medications for birth control. Some people use the cervical mucus method due to their religious beliefs. Others use it because they do not want use hormonal methods for personal or medical reasons.

Procedure Details

How does the cervical mucus method work?

The amount, color, and texture of a woman’s cervical mucus change during her menstrual cycle. The changes are more noticeable around ovulation. To use the cervical mucus method:

Check your cervical mucus every day. Observe the color and feel the consistency by rolling and pulling it between your thumb and index finger. To check mucus, you can:

  • Collect discharge from your underwear.
  • Put a clean finger into the vagina.
  • Wipe the vagina with toilet paper.

Record the description. Track your finding on a chart, list or fertility tracking app so you can compare each day’s findings. The typical phases of cervical mucus quality during the cycle includes:

  • “Dry” days of very little mucus.
  • Cloudy, sticky mucus leading up to ovulation.
  • Clear, slippery, stretchy mucus just before and during ovulation.
  • Cloudy, sticky mucus after ovulation.

Plan sex with the fertile period in mind. Your most fertile days are the days with the clear, slippery and stretchy cervical mucus. If you are trying to avoid pregnancy, do not have unprotected sex during these days or for three days after. If you are hoping to become pregnant, these are the best days to have sex.

If you plan to use this method as your primary family planning method, you might want to track several cycles so you are confident in understanding your menstrual cycle and cervical mucus changes. You might also want to take a course to increase your understanding of this method.

Risks / Benefits

What are the benefits of the cervical mucus method?

The cervical mucus method does not cost anything and has no side effects.

What are the drawbacks of the cervical mucus method?

The cervical mucus method does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

Also, several outside factors can change the look and feel of cervical mucus. These changes may make it difficult to evaluate the mucus to predict ovulation and prevent pregnancy.

Factors that can alter cervical mucus include:

  • Douching.
  • Having sex.
  • Having an infection in the vagina.
  • Taking certain medications.
  • Using a lubricant.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I call my doctor if I am using or considering the cervical mucus method?

Ask your healthcare provider if the cervical mucus method may work for you. Family planning experts often recommend combining the cervical mucus method with other fertility awareness methods such as the basal body temperature method.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/29/2020.

References

  • American Pregnancy Association. Cervical Mucus and Your Fertility. (http://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/cervical-mucus/) Accessed 11/8/2021.
  • Knowledge for Health Family Planning Handbook. Ovulation Method. (https://www.fphandbook.org/ovulation-method) Accessed 11/8/2021.
  • Planned Parenthood. What’s the cervical mucus method of FAMs? (https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/fertility-awareness/whats-cervical-mucus-method-fams) Accessed 11/8/2021.

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