Finding goop is in your undies can sometimes sound the alarm 🚨, but it’s also a totally natural part of your bod.
So what’s the deal with all the different vaginal discharge that shows up every month? Let’s demystify the mystery of cervical mucus.
What is cervical mucus exactly?
Cervical mucus (aka cervical fluid) is a gel-like fluid that comes from your cervix. Its main job is to keep things out and help transport sperm to the uterus during ovulation.
Throughout the menstrual cycle, your bod goes through hormonal changes that alter these fluids in color, consistency, and amount.
Tracking your cervical fluid can also help you gauge when your body is the most fertile, aka when it’s the best time to make (or avoid making!) a baby. It’s also a great way to get yourself in tune with your body.
Like your menstrual cycle, your cervical fluid is somewhat unique to you. The color, consistency, and amount varies from person to person and throughout the month. But, you can generally expect the following changes throughout the month:
- During your period = not fertile. Let’s be real, you won’t likely notice the mucus during your monthly Red Wedding. That’s because it’ll be hidden by your period blood.
- After your period = not fertile. You might find yourself feeling a bit dry without any discharge. Or, you may have white discharge after your period that feels a bit sticky, and looks like globs of discharge.
- Pre-ovulation = less fertile. Your body is prepping for ovulation and cervical mucus will be creamy in consistency (like lotion). It may be white, yellow, or cloudy in color.
- Ovulation is close = semi-fertile. Rising estrogen levels make your mucus clear and watery. It might also have a little stretch to it as it gets more fertile.
- Right before and during ovulation = most fertile. Mucus has a clear, stretchy, egg white-like consistency. This is perfect for protecting sperm and helping it swim to your eggies. This is the perfect time to get it on if you’re trying to get pregnant.
- After ovulation. Discharge will slow down right after ovulation. This can mean dry days for some, while others may experience mucus that’s thick, gluey, or cloudy.
PSA on pregnancy prevention
Sperm can live in your body for about 5 days. Even if you’re not a fertile myrtle with egg-white discharge, you *could* still get pregnant during semi-fertile discharge days (clear and watery mucus) that lead up to ovulation.
The fertile zone is roughly 2 or 3 days before the first signs of any slippery mucus and lasts about 3 days after your peak egg-white mucus. Your “safe period” *should* be outside this window, but it really depends on your cycle. Cycles really vary, and while pretty rare, some folks can even get pregnant right after their period if they ovulate sooner.
When you ovulate, your body releases an egg in preparation to meet one lucky sperm. As your body preps for ovulation, estrogen levels rise, which starts to thin out your cervical mucus. This makes it more sperm-friendly to help your odds of conception.
Right before and during ovulation the mucus resembles egg whites, taking on a more watery, slippery, stretchy consistency. This fluid helps little spermies move swiftly on their journey to the egg. Basically a natural sperm slip ‘n’ slide.
Ovulation is primo preggo time. So, if you’re trying to conceive, egg-white cervical mucus means it’s time to get on it (and get it on!).
For those not looking to make a bébé, this is when you’re fertile AF and will want to be extra careful. Make sure you’re using barrier methods (condoms for the win) or avoid sex during this time.
Cervical mucus tracking: It’s part of the FAM
Tracking your cervical mucus is often used as a form of natural birth control known as the fertility awareness method (or FAM).
The three main types of FAMs include:
- basal body temperature method
- cervical mucus method
- calendar method (or using a fertility tracking app!)
Using the cervical mucus method can give you a better idea of your primo preggo window. That way you can seize the day if you’re trying to conceive or make sure you’ve got condoms handy (or avoid the deed).
FAMs is more effective if you combine methods (aka the symptothermal method) and using regular LH tests can also help you pinpoint ovulation. You’ll also want to track a few cycles with FAMs methods before you totally rely on it for BC. It also helps to chat with a nurse, doctor, or counselor about how to use FAMs effectively.
Cervical mucus also changes during the first few weeks that your eggo is preggo. But, it’s unlikely your cervical mucus will indicate a bun’s in the oven before a pregnancy test.
Early pregnancy discharge basically looks identical to pre-period cervical mucus. Right before your period, it’s normal to experience some thin white, milky discharge called leukorrhea.
Leukorrhea can also be a bit stickier and yellow early on in pregnancy. Your discharge will likely continue to change as your pregnancy journey continues.
Tracking your cervical mucus is a great way to become more in tune with your cycle. Especially if you’re using FAM to prevent pregnancy or get pregnant.
The first step before using any mucus checking method: WASH YOUR HANDS (by now, we’re all super good at this). Then, there are several ways to check your cervical mucus:
- Check mucus manually. With this OG method, insert one or two clean fingers into your vagina, getting as close to the cervix as possible. After removing your finger(s), examine the mucus’ color and consistency. It may help to rub the mucus between your thumb and index finger.
- Track with toilet paper. If getting all up in your business isn’t your thing, wipe with toilet paper before you pee. Then check any mucus on the TP.
- Check undies or liners. While not as reliable, you can simply check the discharge on your underwear each day. Or use a panty liner to catch any changes for viewing. Note: Underwear color, time between checks, and liner absorbency can skew results.
Keeping track of your findings?
If you’re noting your cervical mucus throughout your cycle, it can be helpful to track it on a calendar, period/fertility tracking app, or Basal Body Temperature (BTT) chart.
Try using these common abbreviations in your tracking, or just use them as a handy reminder:
- S is for sticky = not fertile
- C is for creamy = less fertile
- W is for wet = semi-fertile
- EW is for egg-white = most fertile
There are some things that can alter your mucus, including:
- Sex. Both arousal fluids and semen can be confused for cervical mucus. Be mindful that you may be dealing with lingering semen for a day or 2 after sex.
- Birth control. Some hormonal birth control pills and IUDs keep sperm at bay by thickening your cervical mucus. This can make your mucus’ consistency different than when you’re not using BC. Some folks also experience birth control vaginal dryness from certain hormonal BCs.
- Medications. Regardless of what they’re for, certain medications may not mesh well with your mucus production, impacting what’s going on downtown.
- STIs and other infections. When an infection invades your nether region, your mucus can be affected. Infections can change your mucus’ color, consistency, and odor.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding. You won’t release an egg each month when you’re pregnant, so you may experience other kinds of discharge. You may also have different discharge if you’re breastfeeding because of other hormonal changes.
- Douching. Feeling fresh is great, but using a douche? Not so great. Douching not only rids your body of its natural secretions, it messes with your pH and puts you at risk of infections. It’s also completely unnecessary.
- Dehydration. Staying hydrated keeps all of your fluids flowing, including your cervical mucus. If you’re not getting enough water, your mucus may not be as wet. This can be an issue if you’re trying to get preggo.
- Menopause. Your body goes through many changes as it transitions into menopause, including in the look and texture of your cervical mucus.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, that fertile egg-white cervical mucus is key. Your best option is to talk with your OB-GYN before trying supplements or any home remedies.
If your fertile discharge is MIA or needs a boost, here’s what *might* help.
- Supplements. Certain vitamins may help a dry downtown. Specifically, supplements like vitamin E and L-arginine are *thought* to help increase circulation and blood flow in your baby-making region, boosting cervical mucus. But, the research just isn’t there to prove these do anything. Play it safe and always talk with your doc before you add a supplement.
- Eat a healthy diet. Certain foods and dietary changes may also affect your fertility. Consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein might help, as well as just getting enough nutrients from whole foods like fruits and veggies.
- Stay hydrated. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of H2O since dehydration can mess with your cervical mucus. Some folks also claim grapefruit juice and green tea can work wonders, but there’s actually zero research to back these claims up (beyond just normal hydration).
- Fertility-friendly lubes. The jury is out on whether lubricants actually kill sperm’s swimming power. But some lubes are designed to mimic fertile cervical fluid to help give sperm a fighting chance. Look for lubes labeled “fertility friendly” or “sperm friendly.”
Abnormal discharge is no joke and may actually be a sign that you’ve got an STI or other infection.
Talk with your doctor ASAP if things start to seem “off” or if you notice symptoms like:
- abnormal yellow, green, or gray discharge
- thick, white discharge (kind of like cottage cheese)
- foul vaginal odor (especially eau de seafood)
- itchiness or vaginal burning
- vaginal swelling or rash
- bleeding outside of your normal period
Cervical mucus is a perfectly normal part of your body’s cycle, and tracking it can be a great way to know when you’re ovulating. Knowing your ovulation sched is especially helpful when you’re trying to get pregnant (or avoid pregnancy!), as it’s the best time to conceive 👶. It’s also just a great way to understand your body and menstrual cycle.
Talk with your doctor if you notice something’s amuck with your mucus. Foul odor, odd color, or irritation can mean something’s up with your vag.