Understanding the different changes in cervical mucus is like having a window into your body’s intricate processes.
That’s why shedding the stigma around vaginal discharge and embracing the knowledge it holds is so darn empowering.
So, consider this your no-frills, fluff-free cervical mucus guide, here to give you all the deets on cervical mucus tracking throughout your menstrual cycle.
In this article: 📝
- What is cervical mucus made of?
- What should cervical mucus look like?
- What does infertile cervical mucus look like?
- What does cervical mucus look like when not ovulating?
- How does the cervical mucus method work?
- What are the pros and cons of the cervical mucus method?
What is cervical mucus made of?
Cervical mucus is a dynamic mixture of vaginal, cervical, and uterine fluid formed by water, glycoproteins, lipids, and enzymes.
This powerhouse blend can morph from sperm’s greatest ally during fertile days to a personal bodyguard for you (and baby), providing a barrier to harmful microbes.
And its composition and consistency change across your menstrual cycle, giving you plenty of data about your body’s readiness for conception at different stages.
Are cervical mucus and discharge the same thing?
Cervical mucus and vaginal discharge may seem like they’re playing on the same team, but they have their distinct roles on the field.
Cervical mucus is like your body’s master communicator, sending you signals about your fertility through its changing textures and amounts.
And while vaginal discharge consists of cervical mucus, it also contains vaginal fluid, bacteria, and cells.
It’s basically your body’s way of keeping the vaginal environment clean and healthy.
These are all flags of infection—something your vaginal discharge communicates well.
So, while cervical mucus is part of vaginal discharge, not all vaginal discharge is cervical mucus.
But they both have a crucial role in making sure everything flows smoothly down there.
What should cervical mucus look like?
Cervical mucus isn’t just one solitary note—it’s a melody with variations throughout the menstrual cycle.
That’s what makes it so powerful as a predictor of your fertility window.
How it looks depends entirely on where you’re at in your cycle.
Not to worry, we’ve got your guide to the different types of cervical mucus discharge right here:
Cervical mucus after period
After your period, cervical mucus usually starts off shy—it’s there, but in a scant, sticky form.
This tends to be the time you might notice dry cervical mucus, and it can last up to three or four days.
You may even find you have no cervical mucus at all.
This is because estrogen naturally drops after ovulation and doesn’t increase again until the mid-follicular phase.
This leads to temporary vaginal dryness—similar to what happens during menopause.
And some women may even experience brown discharge as their body works to clean out the vagina.
Cervical mucus before ovulation
Before ovulation kicks in, your cervical mucus might begin transitioning from that post-period stickiness to a creamier texture—close to yogurt.
This creamy mucus is your body’s way of prepping for ovulation, making the environment down there more sperm-friendly as ovulation approaches.
It’s like a little nudge from your body saying that your fertility window is opening, marking a good time to start tuning into other ovulation symptoms if you’re trying to conceive.
Ovulation cervical mucus
As you near ovulation, things get a little more interesting.
Ovulation mucus typically looks clear and stretchy, like egg whites, to make it easier for sperm to glide through and reach the egg.
How long does ovulation mucus last?
Typically, this type of mucus can last between three to five days, often peaking around the days of ovulation.
The duration and amount can vary from person to person, so it’s essential to track your own cervical mucus patterns to get a more accurate understanding of your unique fertility window.
Cervical mucus after ovulation
Yes, cervical mucus can also flag when your fertility window is closed.
After ovulation takes a bow, cervical mucus changes its tune and usually becomes thicker and less stretchy.
This thick cervical mucus is typically down to an increase in the hormone progesterone six to eight days post-ovulation.
Unlike its previous slippier self, this type of mucus isn’t as hospitable to sperm.
Basically, it acts as a protective barrier, helping to keep things clean and maintain a healthy vaginal environment until your next period or, if conception occurred, throughout pregnancy.
Cervical mucus before period
Before your period, you may notice your cervical mucus continues to stand firm with its thicker, gummier texture.
This is a sure sign that progesterone levels are high and estrogen levels are low.
What kind of cervical mucus indicates pregnancy?
So, let’s get you clued up on the signs of pregnancy discharge.
Early in pregnancy, the texture and appearance of cervical mucus changes due to the spike in progesterone levels.
And this is where you’ll see that familiar creamy or milky texture that looks slightly yellow or white.
But there’s one key difference.
Because of rising estrogen levels, you might see more of this pregnancy discharge (leukorrhea) than you would before your period.
Still, extra discharge is not a definitive sign of pregnancy, so if you have your suspicions (or aspirations), take a pregnancy test to be sure.
What is dry cervical mucus?
The phrase ‘dry cervical mucus’ may seem like a paradox, but early in your cycle, mucus may indeed be scant and sticky—lying low before the fertile phase kicks in.
Often linked to lower levels of estrogen, dry cervical mucus reflects a less fertile phase in your menstrual cycle, with its sticky texture acting as a barrier to sperm.
Again, it’s totally normal for your cervical mucus to ebb and flow, but if you’re noticing dry cervical mucus throughout your cycle, it might be worth chatting with your healthcare provider.
What does infertile cervical mucus look like?
Infertile cervical mucus is simply mucus that does not support sperm survival and movement, making it difficult for conception to occur (although this problem is rarely a major cause of infertility).
Apparently, there was a time when hostile cervical mucus was a synonym, but this has no place in our #RenamingRevolution glossary.
Really, infertile cervical mucus is ‘dry cervical mucus’ that sticks around outside its usual hormonal windows.
You see, normally, your cervical mucus will be thick and impenetrable to sperm until just before the release of an egg during ovulation.
And just before ovulation, the mucus becomes clear and elastic, allowing sperm to travel to the fallopian tubes, where fertilization takes place.
But infertile mucus may do the following:
- Not change as it normally does during ovulation
- Allow bacteria into the vagina, which cause the destruction of sperm
- Contain antibodies that kill sperm cells
Still, it’s by no means a major cause of infertility—it’s more a by-product of another health condition.
What does cervical mucus look like when not ovulating?
An anovulatory cycle is when the body doesn’t ovulate as it typically should on a monthly basis.
In other words, an egg is not released from your ovary during a menstrual cycle.
So, while you may still observe some vaginal discharge, a striking lack of that thin, stretchy cervical mucus during your cycle is usually a tell-tale sign that ovulation has not happened.
Other symptoms of anovulatory cycle include:
- Irregular periods
- Missing one or more periods in a row (amenorrhea)
- Light menstrual bleeding
Just like the causes, these signs of anovulation can vary from person to person—no body is the same.
Really, one of the best ways to recognize an anovulatory cycle is by tracking your cervical mucus and getting familiar with ovulation symptoms so you can note what’s missing.
How does the cervical mucus method work?
Also known as the Billings Ovulation Method, this natural birth control method is based on observing and charting the changes in cervical mucus.
Think of the cervical mucus method as learning a new language, where each mucus texture and color is a word in the larger narrative of your fertility.
By tracking and charting these ‘words’ daily, you can better determine the days you’re most likely to conceive.
The Billings ovulation method essentially utilizes the fact that you can only get pregnant for six days in your cycle, encouraging you to get up close and personal with your cervical mucus as it predictably changes over the course of your cycle.
The idea is that you’re looking out for that clear and elastic-looking mucus about six days before ovulation (ovulation is likely to happen on the last day that your cervical mucus has these features).
Once this day has been identified—or is extremely close—according to Billings’s ovulation method, you may be fertile for three days before and three days after.
And if pregnancy is far from your mind, this means that barrier methods should be used during this period.
How to check cervical mucus
Here’s how to do cervical mucus method like a pro:
- Observation: Each day, observe the color, consistency, and quantity of your cervical mucus. You can do this by checking the discharge on your underwear, gently wiping with toilet paper before peeing, or inserting a clean finger into your vagina to collect a mucus sample (thorough).
- Charting: Literally record what you see on a chart or in a fertility tracking app. Note the days when your mucus is clear, stretchy, and egg-white-like (for fertile days) and when it’s sticky, creamy, or dry (for less fertile or infertile days).
- Identifying patterns: Over time, you’ll start to notice patterns in your cervical mucus changes. Typically, this will look like a shift from dry or sticky mucus to clear, stretchy mucus and back again.
- Determining fertility: Clear, stretchy mucus usually indicates when you’re most fertile, AKA more likely to conceive. If you’re TTC, now’s your window. And if you’re not, this is the best time to avoid or use condoms.
- Talk to a healthcare provider: If you’re in doubt or struggling to see a pattern, talk with a healthcare provider or fertility specialist—especially if you’re experiencing irregular periods or none at all.
- Combining methods: For even better accuracy, you can combine the cervical mucus method with basal body temperature (BBT) charting or using ovulation tests.
- Continuous learning: The more you practice observing your cervical mucus, the more attuned you’ll become to your body’s unique fertility pattern. It’s a learning process, so be patient with yourself as you learn the ropes.
How reliable is the cervical mucus method?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the typical use of cervical mucus methods has a 2-23% failure rate.
Basically, up to 23 people out of 100 unintentionally become pregnant each year using this method.
And its reliability hinges a lot on how adept you become at tracking those slippery and sticky days.
On the flip side, while cervical mucus monitoring can tell you when is the best time to try, it doesn’t always ensure pregnancy will happen.
According to the National Health Service, within the UK, if you’re under 40, you have an 8 in 10 chance of conceiving within 1 year of unprotected sex.
However, even the moms on Peanut will tell you getting pregnant isn’t as easy as it seems, and the reasons why are incredibly individual.
If, after one year, you’re still waiting for that big fat positive (BFT), it’s a good call to check in with your doctor.
What are the pros and cons of the cervical mucus method?
The cervical mucus method is all about tuning into your body’s natural signals to understand your fertility.
And this requires a daily commitment to observation and charting, which, while enlightening, can be consuming.
Still, one of the big wins for the cervical mucus method is that it’s completely natural and non-invasive.
No hormones, no side effects, no devices, just you tuning into your body’s cues.
And it’s pretty cost-effective, too.
Aside from perhaps a charting app or a physical chart and a pen, there’s not much else you need to invest in.
Plus, it can be used whether you’re TTC or holding off on pregnancy entirely.
The downside of the billings ovulation method is it demands a daily dose of dedication, and it’s not massively accurate because it’s hard to always track correctly.
You’ll need to check and chart your mucus every day— sometimes more than once—and it’s a steep learning curve.
Not to mention, monitoring cervical mucus to get pregnant (or not) doesn’t work for everyone.
And last but not least, skipping condoms can also increase your exposure to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Honestly, whether it’s the right method for you depends entirely on your personal circumstances, your patience with tracking, and your comfort with your own body.
Speak to your healthcare provider if you’re considering it to ensure it’s a good fit.
Cervical mucus isn’t just a one-note wonder—it’s a complex blend designed to support fertility and keep things in check.
But by understanding what’s happening in your body, you’re taking a big step towards embracing and navigating your reproductive health.
A step that will serve you all the way through menopause and beyond.
We’re here for it (literally). ❤️