Cervical mucus is the mucus made by the—you guessed it—cervix. Its production is governed primarily by the reproductive hormones, and is also influenced by nutrient levels in the body, by stress, by other illnesses, and more.
Since cervical mucus changes throughout the menstrual cycle particularly in relation to ovulation, it is one of the indicators of fertility. Therefore, the cervical mucus can be an extremely helpful way to learn about your body and about when to try to conceive. Being aware of what is happening with your cervical mucus is also a way to reconnect with yourself and listen to what your body is saying. Knowing how it changes throughout the cycle will also give your health practitioner information about your hormonal levels because estrogen, luteinizing hormone, and progesterone are all involved in the cervical mucus production.
Checking Your Mucus
Using your fingers, check the mucus around the vaginal opening once or twice a day when you go to the bathroom. Some women find it easier to set a routine, such as when they first go to the bathroom in the morning.
Most will not need to check the mucus at the actual cervix, as the mucus travels down the vagina and through the opening. If it doesn’t and it feels dry, this is also indicative and sufficient information. Do not check inside the vagina as the vaginal walls secrete their own lubrication and this can confuse the reading.
Do not use anything absorbent—such as toilet paper—to obtain the mucus, as it will absorb water and affect the reading.
If you have had sex or been aroused in the 6-12 hours prior to checking, this can alter the reading as you will have more vaginal lubrications. Still, observe or note down the reading but indicate that it could have been from arousal.
Typical Cycle of Mucus
Below is described the typical cycle of cervical mucus. But please know that it varies somewhat from woman to woman!
During the Period
At The Fertility Pod, we don’t recommend trying to check the cervical mucus while you are menstruating because, as you may imagine, it is almost impossible to know what the mucus is during this time. Wait until you either have a very light flow, spotting, or have completely concluded the bleed.
In the days between when the period ends and ovulation, the mucus will slowly increase and change consistency, gradually becoming more fertile.
Directly after the period there is little to no mucus. Any mucus is usually sticky, thick, and granular. As you go about your day (not when you are checking with your fingers), the general sensation around the outside of the vagina is dryness.
After a few days, you may see slightly more mucus amount-wise, though it still tends to be sticky, flaky, and opaque. This mucus blocks the sperm from entering the cervix and therefore most women at this time tend not to be fertile.
As the cycle continues, the mucus continues to increase in amount and starts to be more tacky or rubbery. A good analogy is that it is like the glue paste used for papier-mâché. The general external feeling of the vaginal entrance may start to be damper.
As you get closer to ovulation, the mucus will become more conducive for the sperm traveling up through the cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes; this is an indication to you about your upcoming ovulation. The cervical mucus starts to become more watery, fluid, milky-white, and/or creamy, and there is more of it. The general feeling of the vaginal entrance is of fullness, wetness, and softness.
Just prior to ovulation, the mucus will get wet, slippery, and stretchy. The analogy often used is that it is like a raw egg-white. If you pull your fingers apart with the mucus between them, you will see the mucus stretching between the two fingers. This fertile mucus actually nourishes and supports the sperm on their journey to fertilize the egg.
These last two types of mucus—which can be similar—are a good time to try and conceive as usually you will ovulate within 1-3 days and the sperm can live in this type of mucus for around 3 days.
After ovulation, there is a return to the thick, tacky mucus or to no mucus. Sometimes, just prior to the period there is an increase of mucus but it tends to still be that thicker, opaque mucus.
Charting or Not
As noted above, the purpose of knowing more about your cervical mucus is so that you have more information about your own body. For some people, it may be important to know exactly what is happening, day-by-day, in their cycle. For others, it is simply to help them connect further with themselves. Therefore, like most things, there is no “one size fits all” approach.
If you want to create a chart so you can note your observations each day, there are plenty of charts available on the Internet, or most cycle-tracking apps will have an option for inputting the cervical mucus. For some, this may be too much and that is okay! Do what works for you.
For all women, we recommend that you start being aware and getting to know what happens with your cervical mucus throughout your menstrual cycle.
One tip is that when making your observations, find the words to describe the mucus that work for you. Creamy, tacky, rubbery, sticky, clumpy, white, vinegary-smelling, sweet-smelling, clear, stringy, pasty, clear, non-existent, etc. are all used and can be a good start. What about words in another language that you speak, especially if they aren’t translatable to English? Those are good too!
It will probably take at least three months before you get familiar with the cycle changes, and up to a year before you feel like a pro.
The changes in your cervical mucus can be helpful information for your practitioner as they determine your treatment plan. Think of this as giving them one more tool for the toolbox. So, bring your chart or observations with you to your appointments.
For those of you who want support with detailed charting or to know what steps to take once you have charted the cervical mucus, make an appointment with one of the practitioners who can explain the changes, the hormones, and work with you to use that knowledge to improve your health and fertility.