Vaginal discharge is completely normal, and it can occur at any time throughout the month. It’s a mixture of fluid and cells from the vagina, and includes cervical fluid or cervical mucus.
You might notice a discharge when you’re sexually aroused and when you’re ovulating. But while some women don’t give much thought to the color or consistency of their discharge, egg white cervical mucus (sometimes abbreviated EWCM) plays a vital role in fertility.
Egg white cervical mucus is fertile fluid that helps sperm travel from the vagina to the uterus. It’s called “egg white cervical mucus” because it looks and feels like raw egg whites under close examination.
Cervical mucus is created by the glands in your cervix. The cervix is located at the end of the vagina and connects your uterus to your vagina. This discharge spreads from the cervix and can be found inside the vagina and sometimes in your underwear or on toilet paper when you wipe.
Egg white cervical mucus is a clear, stretchy fluid that you’ll see a few days before ovulation in response to hormonal changes. This type of discharge can continue for up to 1 to 2 days after ovulation. Ovulation is when your ovaries release an egg to be fertilized by sperm.
While egg white cervical mucus is typical during ovulation, this type of discharge can occur at other times, too. For example, you might notice egg white discharge during pregnancy, and you may see this type of discharge right before sexual intercourse.
You’ll notice egg white cervical mucus during your most fertile time of the month. It plays a big role in fertility. Since it’s thin and sticky, it provides the ideal condition for sperm to travel from your vagina to the uterus.
If your body doesn’t produce cervical mucus — or if your mucus is too thick during ovulation — sperm can’t travel to your uterus as easily. This doesn’t mean that you can’t conceive, but it can indicate an issue that should be explored.
Egg white cervical mucus typically occurs a few days before ovulation. Cervical mucus is thin during this time of the month, making it easier to conceive.
The consistency and quality of cervical mucus changes after ovulation and after your menstrual cycle. It thickens after ovulation. And after your period, your cervical glands stop producing mucus until it’s time to ovulate again.
Cervical mucus during the menstrual cycle:
In a 28-day cycle the following represents the timing of mucus changes. All cycles are unique and yours may not match this exactly.
- Days 1 to 5: Menstrual cycle (period).
- Days 6 to 9: Little to no cervical mucus.
- Days 10 to 12: Thick cervical mucus appears.
- Days 13 to 15: Cervical mucus becomes thinner, stickier, and egg white-like in appearance.
- Days 16 to 21: Cervical mucus thickens.
- Days 22 to 28: Little to no cervical mucus.
If you’re looking to conceive, tracking ovulation improves your odds of getting pregnant.
Some women find it difficult to track their menstrual cycle. Yet, monitoring your discharge can provide clues about your most fertile days. In most cases, your discharge will become egg white in appearance about 2 to 3 days before ovulation.
You might be able to detect ovulation by simply observing the consistency of your cervical mucus. If you can’t tell by looking at it, you can touch the discharge to test its consistency.
To test your cervical mucus:
After washing your hands, gently place one finger inside of your vagina and gently remove a sample. Or, use toilet paper to retrieve a sample — wiping from front to back. Sometimes you’ll also find mucus on your underwear.
- Thin mucus may just leave a damp spot.
- Egg white mucus will look clear to milky and feel stretchy.
- Thick mucus may look and feel clumpy or spongy.
When cervical mucus is thin and stretchy, you’re most likely ovulating. Understand that being sexually aroused could dilute your cervical mucus, so don’t try to check consistency before or after intercourse.
Along with checking for egg white cervical mucus, other factors can help track ovulation, too. One of the easiest ways is to track your menstrual cycle, which will be easier if you have regular periods.
If your period comes like clockwork every four weeks or 28 days, you’re likely ovulating on day 14 of your cycle. So you may notice egg white cervical mucus between days 11 and 15 of your cycle.
If you don’t want to manually track your cycle, you can also use an ovulation predictor kit. You’ll urinate on a test stick (the same way you urinate on a pregnancy test). These kits are designed to detect the luteinizing hormone which your body releases 24 to 48 hours before ovulation.
You can also use these test kits if you have an irregular period. Just know that you’ll have to test more frequently throughout the month to narrow down your most fertile days.
You can also track ovulation by monitoring your basal body temperature. Body temperature increases by a few degrees right before ovulation.
Keep in mind that some medications and conditions can affect the quality of your cervical mucus. So even if you’re ovulating each month, producing too little mucus can make it difficult to conceive.
Medications that can decrease your amount of cervical mucus include:
You can also experience less cervical mucus due to age or hormonal imbalances.
Other types of vaginal discharge
Egg white cervical mucus differs from other types of vaginal discharge. Normal discharge is usually clear to white and watery to thick.
On the other hand, discharge accompanied by itching or irritation could indicate a yeast infection. Cottage-cheese discharge can also signal a yeast infection. Discharge that’s green or yellow can be a sign of a bacterial infection.
Some vaginal discharge can be brown, especially at the end of your period. But brown discharge can also be a sign of uterine or cervical cancer. See a doctor if you have any concerns about your vaginal discharge.
Also keep in mind that egg white cervical mucus is odorless. If your discharge has an odor, you may have a yeast or bacterial infection.
If you’ve been monitoring your vaginal discharge for a few months, and you’ve yet to detect egg white cervical mucus, your body may produce little to none of this fluid.
Despite your ovaries releasing an egg each month, the wrong consistency of mucus means sperm will have a more difficult time traveling from your vagina to the uterus.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t get pregnant. It is possible to conceive with little or no cervical mucus, but it’ll be more challenging.
- Talk to your doctor if you’re taking a prescription medication. Your medication might prevent “sperm-friendly” cervical mucus.
- Drink more water. Cervical mucus is mostly water, so the more hydrated you are, the better your mucus quality. Being dehydrated slows the production of cervical mucus.
- Ask your doctor about water-based nonspermicidal lubricants.
Certain supplements claim the ability to boost cervical mucus production. These claims have been linked to primrose oil, dandelion, marshmallow roots, licorice, and L-arginine. However, more research is needed to support these claims. Ask your doctor whether it’s safe before using these supplements.
Another purported belief is that drinking grapefruit juice a week before ovulation can improve the quantity and quality of cervical mucus. Again, evidence for this is anecdotal, not clinical, and more research is needed.
Getting pregnant is easy for some women, and not so easy for others. Keeping a watchful eye on your cervical mucus can help determine your most fertile days of the month. This along with tracking ovulation can provide the best odds of conception.
Just remember that the quality and quantity of your cervical mucus is only one part of the bigger fertility picture. So if you are concerned about your fertility or your cervical mucus, speak with your doctor.