Everything you need to know about cervical mucus and ovulation
Some people often feel a bit squeamish or uneasy about checking their own cervical discharge…
The one thing that we would say if this is you is:
“ Don’t be learning and understanding about your own body is empowering…own it!”
When we get questions about trying to conceive ovulation mucus comes up a fair bit some of the common questions, we get asked are
“What is ovulation mucus?”
“How and why does my cervical mucus change through my cycle”
“What colour should my cervical discharge be?”
“Is when I have egg white discharge the best time to get pregnant?”
“How do I check my cervical mucus?”
“What is fertile Mucus”
We’ll look at these and much more through this article.
What is cervical mucus?
If you have spent any time in forums or support groups for those trying to conceive you will see one hot topic is cervical mucus sometimes abbreviated to CM and the holy grail of egg white cervical mucus often abbreviated to EWCM
In the simplest of terms, cervical mucus is produced and released by the cervix. It does this in response to the hormone estrogen. Estrogen levels in your body change as you go through your cycle; as such your cervical fluid will change with it.
Again, in simple terms, it has 2 key jobs
- Keep unwanted things from entering your cervix.
- The one we will be discussing in detail is that it provides a nice, safe and easy medium for the sperm to travel through as they progress towards the egg.
How does your cervical fluid change through your menstrual cycle?
Your cervical mucus will undergo a number of changes as you progress through your cycle. However it’s important to remember that not everyone will have these clear changes at each point in their cycle, it’s just important that you understand your cervical mucus and can spot when it’s at the most receptive for sperm – which coincidently is around ovulation… isn’t the body amazing? Let’s look at the 5 main types of cervical mucus.
Dry or no cervical mucus
This most commonly happens in women just after and just before your period, it offers no lubrication and you definitely not fertile at this time.
Sticky Cervical Fluid
This starts a few days after your period, as the fluid content builds, it resembles a really badly mixed wallpaper paste. It’s very sticky and has a lot of clumps. This is very hard for sperm to swim through and you are very unlikely to be fertility. It also is common later on in your cycle before your next period.
Creamy Cervical Mucus
Following on from the glue-like one above, it can start to become very creamy. It can take on a slightly yellow/cream tinge in colour. When you rub it between your fingers it has a similar consistency to suntan lotion. Its thickness and viscosity make it very hard for sperm to swim through and you are still not fertile.
Watery Cervical Discharge
As you move towards your fertile window your cervical mucus will become very watery. As you can see it adds a shine to your fingers but is much more even in its consistency. This is a good medium for sperm to swim through and you should start having regular sex at this point. But it’s the next type you are really looking for.
Egg white Cervical Mucus EWCM
This is the holy grail! The watery mucus starts to get more structure and it stretches really well it resembles… well, you guessed it egg white. In fact, if you hold it between your two fingers then it can stretch up to 2 inches without breaking. This is your most fertile mucus and is the perfect fluid to help the sperm reach the egg. If you’re trying to conceive now is the time to have lots of sex.
If I track my cervical mucus will I increase my chances of conceiving?
This one is a little more difficult if you aren’t tracking ovulation any other way then checking for your ovulation mucus – That lovely egg white discharge will help you time your baby-making sex and give you the best chance of fertilisation in any one cycle.
If you’re using other tracking methods, then the act of just checking may not help much more. However cervical mucus isn’t just great for tracking ovulation it is also a good indicator of overall health and fertility health and as such it’s good practice to start tracking it and monitoring it in combination with some of the other methods.
But this is the method that we always suggest women start with at the beginning of their TTC journey.
If you want a fantastic ovulation tracker then we highly recommend Ovusense. It tracks core body temperatures, has superb features to track your cervical mucus, baby-making time and a huge amount more. I used it because I work shifts which included nights and as such basal body temperature wasn’t effective for me. You should check it out on the Ovusense website, plus you can get 20% off using the code “INEEDIVF”.
How do I check my cervical mucus?
For some women as we mentioned this can feel a little strange to start with, but understanding your body, your cycle and how that relates to your fertility is one of the most empowering journeys that I took.
Checking your cervical mucus is easy. Just follow the steps shown in the graphic below.
Tips for checking your cervical fluid
Tip #1 – Don’t check straight after sex or when you are aroused
Your arousal fluids aren’t the same as your cervical fluids and as such can’t be used as reliably, also it can be challenging to tell the difference between Semen and the cervical mucus, so do it when you aren’t in a happy place.
Tip #2 – Check it after you have had a bowel movement.
I know this one seems a little strange but the act of going for a number of 2 will actually push your cervical fluid further down the vagina and can make it easier for some to get a good sample to check -especially those who have a high cervix. Just remember to wash your hands thoroughly first.
Tip #3 – If you have PCOS you can get multiple bouts of fertile mucus i.e egg white discharge
This can be because of the hormonal imbalances. If this is the case then it can be hard to use this as a predictor of ovulation and you should probably use an additional method which could include cervical position, basal body temperature of core body temperature to help you track more effectively.
Tip # 4 – If you really are uncomfortable checking your discharge manually you can use toilet paper and underwear.
There is a method called the Billings Method which is a natural family planning method, which is more about awareness of your body than anything, it’s beyond the scope of this simple article, but if you are interested there are lot’s of resources and books about it this one from Amazon is particularly good and reasonable.
Can you have problems with your cervical mucus
The simple answer is yes. There are a number of things that can cause problems or changes with your cervical mucus.
IMPORTANT: If you never get fertile egg white mucus you MUST see your doctor as this can be indicative of a hormonal and fertility problem.
There are a number of factors that can impact your cervical mucus, they include
- Conditions – As we briefly touched on in the previous section. Certain conditions such as PCOS that mess with the natural hormonal balance and hormone levels.
- Medications – Similar to the above some medications can cause changes to your cervical fluid such as antihistamines can cause cervical discharges to dry up. In a strange twist of fate, Clomid, a medication many people use to improve fertility can cause issues with your cervical fluid, as such it can be pertinent to use a sperm safe lubrication such as Pre-seed – which comes highly recommended everywhere.
- Lifestyle – Like everything in fertility lifestyle, hydration, diet can call impact the quality of your cervical mucus, so a number of the tips to improve your mucus quality will be focused on your lifestyle.
What if I have no or very little cervical mucus
There are certain conditions and reason like the one we mentioned above where you can have no cervical mucus or very dry mucus, or mucus that doesn’t’ change with your cycle. If this is the case you should speak to your doctor. They will likely perform some hormone blood tests to check your hormone balance and levels and for infections. There are some treatment options:
- Check for infection either bacterial or fungal, these can be easily treated with antibiotics or antifungals and if you have one your normal mucus should come back after treatment.
- If you have a hormonal (especially estrogen) imbalance then your doctor may prescribe a short course of synthetic estrogen to help you improve your mucus.
- Use a sperm-friendly lubricant such as Pre-seed to help the sperm reach the egg If it’s an ongoing issue.
Myths about improving cervical mucus
There are a couple of myths that are pervasive through the infertility world we will try and debunk a couple of them for you, so you don’t waste your time.
Myth 1 Drinking a cough medicine which contains guaifenesin will improve the quality of your cervical mucus.
This spread like wildfire following a research piece in from the ’90s which showed that guaifenesin will thin your cervical mucus, and this is true it will, but it won’t improve the quality of the mucus which is most important.
Myth 2 You can’t diagnose pregnancy with cervical mucus
This one even sounds like a myth, yet it finds it’s way onto a number of lists you may read. Like most very early ‘pregnancy’ symptoms there can be 100 reasons why there is a change. Just so that we’re clear you can’t use your cervical discharge to know if you’re pregnant.
Tips to improve your cervical mucus quality
As you have seen your cervical mucus changes through your cycle, it is also influenced by a lot of areas of your life and medical history. Which is both a blessing and a curse, because whilst the fun things in life can have negative impacts but on the plus side it means that you have a level of control over its quality. Let’s look at our x tips to improve cervical fluid especially that vital ovulation EWCM (Egg White Cervical Mucus)
Tip #1 – Hydrate, Hydrate and did I say it before Hydrate!
Cervical mucus is approximately 95% water, as such making sure that you are well hydrated is vital. The recommended amount is 8 x 8oz glasses of water per day. We like to use a BPA free water bottle like this one which helped us track our water intake. The advantage of this tip is that it has more rounded impacts on your overall health and fertility, it’s also important in eqq quality, which we have a complete guide on.
Tip #2 – Nicotine is a no-no!
Like with all fertility the link between fertility and nicotine is that it heavily impacts your fertility. This is true for cervical quality as well, nicotine has been linked with reducing fluids throughout the body and this includes the mucus so it can be harder for the sperm to reach the egg.
Tip #3 – The pH of your cervical mucus can be impacted by what you eat.
There is a small but growing body of evidence that dark green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach help to balance the alkalinity of your cervical mucus which can make it a more hospitable place for sperm and make it more likely for them to survive. Plus we need to eat a balanced diet with at least 5 portions and preferably 7 potions of fruit and veg, so add a few of these a week if you don’t already.
Tip #4 – Avoid Antihistamines/Decongestants if possible.
We don’t mean that you shouldn’t use them if your doctor prescribes them. But these medications are known to dry up your cervical fluid. If you are on them and you are trying to conceive then you might need a sperm safe lubricant.
Excessive exercise, being very underweight and professional athletes can be causes of a reduction in estrogen production which can impact cervical mucus to the point where it all dries up, so exercise in moderation, bring your weight up to a healthy point as measured by BMI of 19.5.
What else should you do as well as checking cervical mucus to improve your chances of getting pregnant
As we briefly when we started the article, if you are just starting to try and conceive then checking and monitoring your cycle with just cervical fluid is a great way for you to start and understand your body and cycle in more detail.
After about 3 months we’d consider the first 2 additional tips:
- using a simple ovulation prediction kit often called an OPK. You will use quite a few of these per cycle which will check your Luteinizing Hormone at ovulation you will get what is known as an LH surge you can read about this fertility hormone in our article. Remember when using these you need 2 very clear lines not faint like in a pregnancy test. You can get OPK’s in bulk and super cheaply at Amazon.
- Start using a cycle tracking app or diary to clearly monitor your cycle and your journey for trying to get pregnant, this will be invaluable if you are sent for fertility testing. Especially as some blood tests are timing critical and your doctors will often assume you have a 28-day cycle.
After 6 months or so you’re still not pregnant then we’d recommend 2 additional things
- Do a home sperm test for the man – Whilst this won’t rule out all-male factor infertility issues, it can pick up 0 and low counts and some tests can look at the mobility of sperm. We love the YO home sperm test which you can read our review.
- Move to more closely monitoring your cycles either with Basal body temperature or a core body temperature. Basal body is great for those with regular cycles, who don’t do shift work, don’t work lights, don’t suffer from insomnia or have PCOS. For those who do suffer from the above then core body temperature may work better and we used Ovusense through our TTC journey mainly because I worked nights and shifts and I have an irregular cycle and short luteal phase – I only found this out through using Ovusense – Check it out on their website and if you decide it’s right for you to use our unique 20% off discount code “INEEDIVF”.
We hope you really have found everything you needed to know about cervical mucus in this article, if you still have any questions then we haven’t done our job properly, so leave us a comment if you do have any questions and we will add them in.
If you are in your TTC journey we think you may find the following articles helpful
How to improve YOUR egg quality in 90 days to improve your chances of conceiving– A detailed evidence-based guide to improving your egg quality to help you get pregnant
How long should it take YOU to get pregnant – Tells you how long it should take to get pregnant, it now includes a calculator.
Evidence-based tips to improve male fertility – A look at the evidence for improving male fertility and what steps you can do to improve your or your partner’s swimmers.
What vitamins should you take whilst trying to conceive – A look at the evidence about supplements for trying to get pregnant and what you need to take.
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