Cervical mucus is more than just discharge. It plays a big part in female fertility and early pregnancy.
You’ve probably heard people talk about tracking their cervical mucus, but why does it change throughout the menstrual cycle?
How can you use it to know when you’re most fertile? We’ll answer these questions and more in this article on Cervical Mucus 101.
What is cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus is a lubricant created by your cervix. Estrogen stimulates the cervix to produce mucus. It can range in color and consistency, from sticky and white to watery and clear.
When you have discharge in your underwear or wipe it off your vulva, it’s mostly made up of cervical mucus.
The consistency and color of cervical mucus can tell you a lot about the health of your vagina and where you are in your menstrual cycle.
Just as your cervix changes throughout the month with your hormones, cervical mucus changes too. Your cervical mucus has a variety of functions depending on where you are in your cycle.
What does cervical mucus do?
Cervical mucus is the unsung hero of early pregnancy. Here’s how cervical mucus helps you get pregnant and stay healthy throughout your cycle:
- Cervical mucus helps sperm move through the reproductive tract :To fertilize an egg, sperm has a long way after sex. The cervical mucus helps sperm move from the vagina, through the cervix, and into the uterus. When you’re most fertile, your cervical mucus is an egg-white consistency. This smooth consistency helps the sperm get to where it needs to be.
- Cervical mucus nurtures the sperm so that it can survive longer: Isn’t it amazing that sperm can live up to 5 days in the reproductive tract? This wouldn’t be possible without cervical mucus. It helps keep sperm alive so that even if you have sex before ovulating, you could still get pregnant.
- Cervical mucus filters sperm: Cervical mucus creates a barrier that weaker sperm can’t get through. Only the strongest, fastest swimmers will get through to fertilize the egg. During your fertile window, mucus is thin so that most sperm can still get through.
If you have a candida overgrowth, your cervical mucus is much thicker. It can be much harder to get pregnant if you have a vaginal thrush, and we’ll talk more about this later.
- Cervical mucus protects sperm: Without cervical mucus, the pH of the vagina would kill sperm. Increased mucus during your fertile window helps coat the vagina so that sperm can get through it safely
When you’re outside of your fertile window, cervical mucus helps keep your reproductive tract healthy. Its thick consistency protects the cervix from bacteria and fungus that can come in through the vagina.
No matter what part of your cycle you’re in, your cervical mucus is working hard to keep you healthy.
Many fertility experts think that cervical mucus is the most vital sign of ovulation because it shows up before you’re fertile. This can tell you when the best time is to have sex to get pregnant.
Tracking your cervical mucus
Your cervical mucus informs you about where you are in your fertility cycle and what’s going on with your vagina. It’s also easier to track than your temperature because all it takes is two fingers and a minute or so.
Still, studies have shown that tracking cervical mucus can increase your chances of conceiving in a cycle. Tracking your cervical mucus, along with advanced fertility tracking, can help you get pregnant faster. Let’s talk about what your cervical mucus will look like at different phases in your cycle.
You can make a habit of tracking your cervical mucus every day. Start by washing your hands. Insert two fingers into your vagina. You don’t have to go far up. You can also use some toilet paper and wipe instead. Even though it may seem gross, holding your cervical mucus between your fingers is the best way to see and feel it’s color and consistency.
Hold the mucus between your fingertips, and spread them out from each other. Pay attention to the color and texture. Is it white? Clear? Sticky? Liquidy? Look at the chart given below to see what phase of your cycle you’re in.
The days mentioned in the above table is true for a 28-day cycle. However, if you have a monthly cycle of any other duration, your cervical mucus is still watery like an egg-white during your ovulation. After ovulation it becomes dry and scanty.
Paying attention to your cervical mucus for a few cycles will help you know what’s going on with your fertility, and can also help you know if something is wrong.
What does watery cervical mucus mean?
Watery cervical mucus usually means you’re getting close to ovulation. This thin, clear mucus helps sperm move through the reproductive tract and nurtures it for fertilization.
Remember we told you that sperm can live up to 5 days once it’s inside the reproductive tract, so if you’re trying to get pregnant it may be a good time to have sex.
What will cervical mucus look like if you're about to ovulate?
When you’re most fertile, your cervical mucus should have a stringy, yet liquid, consistency. It’s clear and might be slightly clouded. Picture the inside of an aloe plant. If you put it between two fingers and spread your fingers apart, the mucus should form a long, thin strand that does not break.
What will cervical mucus look like if you're ovulating?
When you are ovulating, your cervical mucus takes on an egg-white consistency. It’s clear and smooth, and you may notice more of it than usual. Congratulations, you’re in your fertile window! If you’re trying to get pregnant this cycle, now is the best time to have sex.
How does cervical mucus change after ovulation?
Between ovulation and your period, your cervical mucus production drops off. You might notice less discharge during this time, or your discharge may be more dry or sticky.
If an egg is fertilized during or around ovulation, your cervical mucus may look different. More on this later.
What does sticky cervical mucus mean?
Women typically notice sticky cervical mucus right after their period. It may be tacky, or even chunky, between your fingers. The color is usually cloudy as well.
This consistency stops sperm in its tracks, so this time is when you’re probably least fertile.
What does chunky or smelly cervical mucus mean?
Cervical mucus can tell you if your vagina has been invaded by bacteria or fungus. Women with vaginal thrush, or an overgrowth of candida, may notice chunky or smelly discharge. Candida can hurt your chances of getting pregnant because it thickens cervical mucus. Thick mucus stops sperm from being able to get to the egg.
If you notice very smelly, white, chunky mucus, it may be time to see a doctor. Candida overgrowth is usually easy to treat and goes away quickly. Bacteria feed off of sugar and alcohol, so cutting down on both of these can help prevent candida.
What will your cervical mucus look like before your period?
Between ovulation and your period, the production of cervical mucus slows down. Estrogen also falls, so the remaining mucus will probably be dry and sticky. Expect scanty, dry discharge during this time of your cycle.
How does cervical mucus change if you're pregnant?
Not only does your cervical mucus tell you if you’re fertile, it can also be an early sign of pregnancy. You can use cervical mucus to predict if you are pregnant or not, even before you miss your period.
After ovulation, if you haven’t conceived, your cervical mucus will get more dry and scanty. But if you have conceived, you may not see this decrease. Some women even notice implantation bleeding in early pregnancy, and this can show up in your cervical mucus.
These signs are subtle, and not all women notice them. If you’re hoping to conceive and don’t see these changes, you could still be pregnant. Another way to track your post-ovulation hormone levels is with inito.
How does cervical mucus change during menopause?
Cervical mucus goes through natural cycles of increases and decreases according to hormonal changes. Women who are going through menopause may notice more or less cervical mucus and discharge during this time.
These changes are because your hormones are fluctuating. Your body is trying to establish a new equilibrium as your ovaries gradually stop making estrogen and progesterone. Fluctuating hormones also cause other symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes and weight changes.
- Your cervical mucus changes throughout your cycle because of changing estrogen levels.
- Track your cervical mucus to predict when you are most fertile, and most likely to get pregnant.
- Changes in your cervical mucus can inform you where your body is in your fertility cycle, and can clue you in if something is wrong.