Cervical mucus changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Tracking it can help predict ovulation.
Cervical mucus is a fluid or gel-like discharge from the cervix. Throughout the menstrual cycle, fluctuating hormone levels cause the amount and thickness of cervical mucus to change. Hormones stimulate glands in the cervix to produce mucus.
Whether you are trying to achieve or avoid pregnancy, tracking cervical mucus can help predict ovulation. This is known as fertility awareness or cervical monitoring.
Read on to learn about cervical mucus and how it changes throughout your menstrual cycle.
A variety of factors can cause your cervical mucus to change. Some of these
- Your menstrual cycle: Your cervical mucus can change during each stage of your cycle. Immediately before and during ovulation, the mucus is typically clear, stretchy, and slippery. After ovulation, it tapers off and becomes more tacky and sticky. You may also experience a few days without any mucus.
- Pregnancy: Immediately after conception, your mucus can become thick and gummy. As your pregnancy progresses, the amount of mucus might increase and become white or yellow. In late pregnancy, the mucus can become thick and contain pink streaks. This may be a sign that labor has begun.
- Some birth control methods: Hormonal birth control methods typically thicken cervical mucus to make it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus and fertilize an egg.
- Infections: Bacterial, yeast, and sexually transmitted infections can cause your mucus to change color or smell.
- Other factors: Certain medications, feminine hygiene products, douching, breastfeeding, having sexual intercourse, or having a pelvic exam where lubrication is used may also affect how your cervical mucus appears.
The amount, color, and consistency of cervical mucus during each menstrual cycle differs for everyone. Here are some ways cervical mucus can change throughout your cycle:
- During your menstrual period: Blood will cover the mucus, so you likely won’t notice it.
- After your period: Immediately following your period, you might have dry days when you may not notice any discharge.
- Before ovulation: Your body produces mucus before it releases an egg (ovulation). The mucus may be yellow, white, or cloudy, and the consistency might be gluey or stretchy.
- Immediately before ovulation: Estrogen levels
risejust before ovulation. Your mucus might be more clear, stretchy, watery, and slippery. It can look similar to egg whites.
- During ovulation: The clear, stretchy mucus will remain during ovulation, as its texture and pH are protective for sperm. If you’re trying to conceive, have sex during the 5 to 6 days leading up to and including the day of ovulation.
- After ovulation: There will be less discharge after ovulation. The mucus may be thicker, cloudy, or gluey. Some people experience dry days after ovulating.
Cervical mucus after conception
Cervical mucus changes can be an early sign of pregnancy. After implantation (when a fertilized egg attaches to your uterus), mucus tends to be clear, thick, and gummy.
You might notice these changes before a positive pregnancy test.
Cervical mucus in early pregnancy
During the first weeks of pregnancy, your cervical mucus’s color and consistency can change. You might notice stickier white or yellow mucus, known as leukorrhea. As your pregnancy progresses, your vaginal discharge might continue to change.
Does birth control affect cervical mucus?
Birth control pills and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUD) thicken cervical mucus so sperm can’t reach the egg. If you’re using either of these methods, your cervical mucus might have a different consistency.
The best way to feel your mucus’s consistency is to rub it between your thumb and pointer finger. Here is how cervical mucus can feel throughout your cycle:
- Before ovulation: sticky or tacky
- Immediately before and during ovulation: slippery and stretchy, like raw egg whites
- After ovulation: thicker and tacky
There are a few ways to check cervical mucus changes. Be sure to wash your hands before and after performing any of these methods:
- Manually: Insert a clean finger or two into your vagina near the cervix. Remove your finger, and note the mucus’s color and texture.
- With toilet paper: Wipe the opening of your vagina with white toilet tissue before you use the restroom. Note the mucus’s color and consistency on the tissue.
- By checking your underwear or a panty liner: Look for changes in discharge on your underwear or a panty liner. This method can be less reliable than others, as the color of your underwear and how long the discharge has been there can change the discharge’s characteristics.
The cervical mucus method is a form of natural family planning.
The basic idea behind the method is this: If you’re hoping to get pregnant, you can track cervical mucus changes to predict when you’ll ovulate. Tracking your cervical mucus daily for several cycles can help you best recognize patterns.
To improve your chances of pregnancy, try to have intercourse every day or every other day once you notice your cervical mucus consistency becoming more thin, watery, and slippery. This method is more effective for predicting ovulation if you have regular monthly menstrual cycles. If your cycles are irregular, long, or infrequent this method may not work for you and you should talk with your doctor or healthcare professional.
For the best chance of pregnancy, use an app or calendar to record the days you’re more likely to be ovulating. Then plan to have sex during this fertile window.
If you’re avoiding pregnancy
If you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, avoid intercourse from the time you first see any cervical mucus. The cervical mucus method has a high failure rate at preventing pregnancy. It is considered an unreliable contraceptive method compared to other forms of contraception. Consider using an alternative or additional method of birth control such as a barrier method or hormonal contraception.
You can also track ovulation using the following methods:
Your basal body temperature (your body temperature when you’re resting) rises by 0.5 to 1.0°F (.28 to .55°C) after ovulation has occurred. When tracking your basal body temperature, make sure to take your temperature first thing in the morning when you wake up each day during your cycle.
If you are ovulating, you should notice a rise in your basal body temperature graph. While this method can be helpful in determining if you are ovulating, it can also be unreliable and inaccurate. It can’t be used to predict ovulation in real-time. It detects ovulation after it has occurred.
If you are trying to get pregnant, use your basal body temperature graph to estimate your day of ovulation. Then, have sex 5 to 6 days before and on the day of ovulation.
Using this method along with the cervical mucus method can increase your chances of successfully predicting ovulation.
Free online ovulation calendars can help you predict your ovulation days. You’ll need to enter your last menstrual period’s start date and the average number of days in your cycle.
A doctor can perform tests and a physical exam to check ovulation and ensure your hormone levels are typical. See a doctor if you’re having trouble getting pregnant after one year of trying, or after six months if you’re over 35 years of age.
You can also track ovulation at home using a digital ovulation predictor or ovulation test strips. Similar to taking a pregnancy test, ovulation tests require you to urinate on the end of a test strip or into a cup where you’ll insert the strip. These tests check for the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge to predict your most fertile days. An LH surge triggers ovulation.
Tell a doctor about any unusual vaginal discharge, as it could be a symptom of an infection. Also watch for:
- yellow, green, or gray mucus
- itchiness or burning
- redness or swelling
If you’re bleeding outside of your menstrual period and don’t think you’re pregnant, talk with a doctor.
Cervical mucus discharge is a typical part of the menstrual cycle. Talk with a doctor if you notice any cervical mucus with an unusual color or foul smell, or if you experience itching or redness.
Tracking cervical mucus can be an effective way to predict ovulation. Track your mucus for at least one cycle before trying to conceive. If you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, use a backup birth control method.