When you’re on the path to pregnancy, you become hyper-aware of every change in your body.
From measuring your basal body temperature to learning the days you are most likely to ovulate, you’re more tuned in to your body than ever.
One part of your monthly bodily changes you simply can’t ignore? Cervical mucus changes.
We have all the information you need if you aren’t familiar with cervical mucus monitoring.
We’ll cover the cervical mucus method of natural family planning, how to check your cervical mucus, and how to determine where you are in your monthly menstrual cycle by simply understanding your type of cervical mucus.
What Is Cervical Mucus?
When you feel a sudden dollop of unexpected moisture in your undies, you’re experiencing discharge of cervical mucus.
This material that ranges in texture and color comes from your cervix during different times of your monthly cycle.
Depending on where you are in your cycle, your cervical mucus changes.
Hormonal levels change during your cycle, which also causes the mucus your cervix releases to change.
Paying close attention to these changes can help you get pregnant or avoid getting pregnant.
While some people prefer hormonal birth control or prophylactics, others prefer a drug-free alternative to reproductive health and wellness.
Fertility awareness, also known as cervical monitoring, is often used as an ovulation predictor to determine when you are most fertile.
When you are in your “fertile window,” or the time of the month when it is most likely for you to become pregnant, you’ll either have sex to become pregnant, avoid it to avoid becoming pregnant, or use a backup form of birth control.
You can use the cervical mucus monitoring method and the calendar method (charting the days you begin and end your period) to help better learn your body and when you are most likely to ovulate.
How Does Cervical Mucus Change?
Your menstrual cycle consists of four distinct phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase.
During each stage, your cervical fluid changes and gives you clues about whether or not you are fertile.
The menstrual phase of your monthly cycle begins on the first day you start your period and ends on the last day of your period.
During this time, it’s virtually impossible to detect your cervical mucus because it combines with your period blood.
The follicular phase begins on the first day of your period, which overlaps with the menstruation phase.
The follicular phase extends past your period to the ovulation phase, which happens about 14 days from the first day of your period.
During the follicular phase, you may experience dry days because progesterone levels are rising.
Once your period is over, your body begins to prepare for ovulation. It isn’t uncommon to experience little to no vaginal discharge at this stage.
As ovulation approaches, cervical mucus changes significantly. There are three distinct phases of cervical mucus change during this period.
- Several days before ovulation. After your dry days, as your body prepares to release an egg, cervical mucus becomes thick and stretchy. The color may appear on toilet paper as slightly yellow and cloudy.
- Just before ovulation. Right before you ovulate (within 24 hours), cervical mucus changes again, and your body begins to ramp up estrogen production to stimulate the release of an egg. Cervical mucus during this time is similar to a raw egg white. Rising estrogen levels indicate your fertile time is approaching.
- During ovulation. Ovulation is a short window of time when your egg is released. An egg can live in your uterus for about 24 hours, so you should have sex during this window if you want to become pregnant. You’ll still have egg-white cervical mucus during ovulation.
Bottom line: If you want to get pregnant, now is the time. If you’d like to stay not pregnant, use a backup method of birth control.
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After ovulation, cervical mucus changes again. You may experience a white discharge that is cloudy, thick, and tacky.
What Are the Changes to Cervical Mucus When You Become Pregnant?
If your egg is fertilized, your cervical mucus will change, and knowing what to expect can help you determine whether or not you are pregnant, even before you take a pregnancy test.
Cervical mucus after conception is generally thick, gelatinous, and transparent.
You’ll probably notice this about a week after your ovulation date. You may also experience implantation bleeding or spotting, which can last about 24 to 48 hours after implantation occurs.
What Are the Changes to Cervical Mucus in Early Pregnancy?
During the first few weeks after implantation, you may notice your cervical mucus changes from thick, gel-like, and clear to sticky, whitish-yellow discharge — known as leukorrhea (the medical term for vaginal discharge).
How Do I Check My Cervical Mucus?
If you use this method to determine your fertile window, you will need to know how to properly (and safely) check your cervical mucus. There are a few ways you can check your cervical mucus.
Index Finger Method
You can manually check your cervical mucus by inserting your index finger into your vagina and swabbing the mucus near your cervix.
This method may be more accurate for testing the texture and consistency.
Toilet Paper or Pantyliner Method
You can test the cervical mucus you pass by inspecting it on a piece of toilet paper or in a pantyliner.
However, it may be harder to determine the actual color of the mucus or the consistency unless you’re willing to get your hands a little dirty.
Speaking of which, ensure you’re using clean hands when inspecting your cervical mucus.
How Do I Use an Ovulation Test With the Cervical Mucus Method?
Ovulation test kits can help you determine if you are close to ovulation.
They’re easy to use and only require urination on a stick for a quick result. Many people trying to become pregnant rely on these to help determine when they have ovulated.
If your cervical mucus indicates that you are close to ovulation, an ovulation test can increase your likelihood of determining your fertile window.
What Other Things Affect Cervical Mucus?
In addition to bodily changes that affect cervical mucus, other lifestyle changes or health conditions can change your cervical mucus and make it harder for you to use the cervical mucus method of family planning.
If you’re breastfeeding and wondering when you might become fertile again, attempting to use the cervical mucus method might not be the best idea.
Breastfeeding can change how your cervical mucus is secreted and make it very difficult to determine whether or not you are fertile.
It’s never necessary to douche; douching can interfere with your body’s natural lubrication and cervical mucus.
If you rely on the cervical mucus method, avoid douching and using any other vaginal cleansing agent.
Suppose you have an underlying health condition that causes you to experience hormonal imbalances.
In that case, you may experience more vaginal discharge than normal, making it difficult to test your cervical mucus.
Having a vaginal infection changes your vaginal discharge.
You may experience foul-smelling, yellow or green, or itchy discharge.
If you suspect you have a vaginal infection, call your doctor. You may need treatment to help clear the infection.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Your cervical mucus can tell a lot about your fertility, and changes to it can be one of the early signs of pregnancy.
If you’re experiencing infertility issues, you should contact your healthcare provider.
The field of obstetrics and gynecology has evolved, and there are numerous options for getting pregnant if you are experiencing fertility issues.
Healthy Pregnancy Awareness
It’s possible to become pregnant at any time during the month, but if you’re trying to start a family, using the cervical mucus method can help determine when you are most fertile.
When you become pregnant, changes in cervical mucus can give clues that reveal conception has happened. Checking cervical mucus is easy and relatively non-invasive, so you don’t have to worry that it will be too messy or invasive.
If you have questions about fertility or pregnancy, check out our blog, and find answers to some of your most frequently asked questions.
References, Studies and Sources:
Bridget Reed is a Tampa-based content development manager, writer, and editor at GR0; specializing in content related to varying fields including medicine, health, and small businesses. Bridget went to St. Petersburg College and majored in Management and Organizational Leadership.
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