If you’re trying to get pregnant and are reading up on all the different ways to track ovulation or determine your fertile days, you may have noticed something about cervical mucus, cervical fluid, or discharge.
Or, especially if you’ve come off of birth control for the first time in a while, you may notice changes in your discharge, the sensation when you wipe when using the toilet, or even something in your underwear.
If you’re wondering what that means, you aren’t alone! Cervical mucus is normal and healthy, but since it isn’t covered in even some of the most comprehensive standards for sex ed, many women don’t know anything about cervical mucus until well into their journey to pregnancy.
Keep on reading to learn all about what cervical mucus is, what it means, and why it’s one of the best tools you can use when you’re trying to conceive.
What is cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus isn’t quite the same as the mucus you may be familiar with in other parts of the body, but it’s a similar idea! It’s a hydrogel made of salts, proteins, fats, and mostly water. It’s produced in pockets of the cervix called “crypts,” throughout the entire menstrual cycle or during pregnancy.
The key thing to know about cervical mucus is that its composition changes in response to different hormones, and if you learn how to tell the difference between different types of cervical mucus, you can determine your fertility in real time.
This is because different types of cervical mucus have different purposes and the structure changes throughout the cycle. During pregnancy or the luteal phase, cervical mucus is thick and full of immune cells. This mucus prevents sperm from entering the uterus, as well as other microorganisms or infectious particles.
As estrogen rises and the fertile window opens, the mucus changes and becomes more fluid to accommodate sperm and provide the perfect environment for sperm to survive and travel to the fallopian tubes. Identifying this type of mucus is a great way to determine fertility!
How can cervical mucus tell me when I’m fertile?
How do you know when this change occurs, though? Isn’t cervical mucus at, well, the cervix? Yes, but throughout the day, though, fertile cervical mucus will move down the vagina and eventually end up at the vulva (unlike the thick mucus during the luteal phase that usually doesn’t).
Therefore, you might notice discharge that’s slippery, white or clear, and wet at the vulva, either while wiping with toilet paper, going about your day, or even on your underwear. If you track this cervical mucus, especially how it changes and becomes more fluid, this will help you determine the time of highest fertility.
In fact, the days of “best quality” cervical mucus, or the most stretchy, clear, and lubricative, are the days of your best chance of pregnancy. The last day that you notice high-quality cervical mucus, called “peak day” when using a cervical mucus method, typically corresponds to the day of ovulation, when the chance of pregnancy is relatively high.
What does fertile ovulation cervical mucus look like?
There are two main types of fertile cervical mucus. The first (sometimes called “non-peak” mucus), when estrogen is beginning to rise and mucus is getting slightly more fluid, may be watery, thin, creamy, lotion-y, white or clear.
That type of mucus, usually called “peak” mucus, is slippery, clear, and stretchy (it may stretch over an inch!) and may resemble raw egg whites. The amount of mucus typically also increases in quantity as ovulation approaches, especially if you’re well hydrated.
Fertile cervical mucus means optimal sperm survival and transport, and is important for increasing your chances of conception. In fact, studies have found there is almost no chance of pregnancy on days with no cervical mucus.
How can I track cervical mucus?
To track cervical mucus, you’ll need toilet paper and a place to log or write down your observations.
Before you use the restroom or shower, wipe from front to back and notice the sensation as you wipe. Is the toilet paper dry, does it glide easily, or does it slip and slide?
You can also look at or touch the paper, and see if you can pick up any mucus. Does it stretch? Is it clear or colored, and does it feel like lotion or thin fluid (non-peak) or raw egg white (peak)?
Then, log your mucus observations in an app like the Proov Insight App, your period tracker, or on a good old-fashioned piece of paper. Note if it was non-peak/high fertility mucus, or that highest fertility, peak-type mucus, and write down a word or two to describe it. Track how your mucus changes over time, and target those days of high quality raw eggwhite-like mucus for intercourse!
If you’re tracking ovulation another way, like with LH tests, cervical mucus is another great tracking tool to add in. If you’re using Proov PdG tests to confirm successful ovulation (which, of course, we recommend!) you’ll want to begin testing 7-10 days after peak day. Peak day, you might remember, is the last day of peak-type cervical mucus.
Finally, if you are tracking and confirming ovulation but you aren’t noticing high quality mucus, this can contribute to infertility. If this is the case, there are a few things you can try:
- Increasing hydration: since cervical mucus is mostly water, drinking more fluids really can make a difference!
- Consider a sperm-supporting lubrication
- Taking an over-the-counter expectorant (just like when you’ve got a stuffy nose!) can increase mucus. Make sure you consult your physician before starting new medications!