What is cervical mucus?

Cervical mucus is fluid secreted by the cervix during different stages of a woman's menstrual cycle. The production of cervical mucus is affected by estrogen levels.
Cervical mucus is fluid secreted by the cervix during different stages of a woman's menstrual cycle. The production of cervical mucus is affected by estrogen levels.

Cervical mucus is a fluid secreted by the cervix (mouth of the womb) during different stages of the menstrual cycle. Its production is influenced by the hormone, estrogen.

Cervical mucus is one of the factors that pave the way for successful conception. It helps the sperm reach the female reproductive tract to meet the egg. It nourishes and protects the sperm in this entire journey. By tracking the changes in the amount and quality of the mucus, one can plan the most appropriate days for conception or avoid them to prevent pregnancy.

Excessive cervical mucus may be a sign of infection. Talk to your doctor about it.

How to check cervical mucus

The most accurate way to identify changes in cervical mucus is to collect and observe a sample of the mucus every day. Here is how you can do it.

  • Finger insertion: This involves inserting your middle or index finger into your vagina until you get closer to your cervix. Next, you remove the finger and roll the cervical mucus between your thumb and index finger and feel its consistency. Move the fingers apart and observe the mucus. Remember to wash your hands and dry them well before trying this method.
  • Use of toilet paper: If you are not comfortable using your fingers, you can use toilet paper. Never insert the paper inside your vagina. You can dab and feel the cervical mucus with the toilet paper.

Once you use any of the methods, continue using the same one consistently to get accurate observations.

Changes in the cervical mucus throughout the entire menstrual cycle

To know your fertile days, you may need to observe your cervical mucus for a few months. This is known as cervical mucus monitoring or the cervical mucus method. It is one of the natural family planning methods.

The cervical mucus fluctuates in terms of its consistency and amount throughout the menstrual cycle. If you know how it feels and looks at different stages of the cycle, you are most likely to identify the best days for conception to improve your fertility outcomes.

Table showing changes in the cervical mucus as per the stage of the menstrual cycle

 The phase of the menstrual cycle     Cervical mucus (amount and quality)  
Just after the menstrual period The amount is so low that some women report their vagina to be dry
Few days after the menstrual period Increase in mucus, which is colorless and sticky
A few days before the ovulation date (fertile window) Increase in quantity and quality, colorless or slightly yellowish
Ovulation period Greatest amount, looks like egg white, thin and stretchy feel, the perfect medium for the survival of the sperm in terms of texture and pH
After ovulation The amount produced declines and goes on to become thicker and whitish

The cervical mucus method is sometimes used in combination with other methods such as tracking basal body temperature. This is sometimes referred to as the symptothermal or biological method.

The cervical mucus method of planning the days for conception will not help you if you have persistent reproductive tract infections.

How does cervical mucus affect your chances of fertility?

Cervical mucus monitoring helps you identify if you have adequate production and quality of cervical mucus during your fertile window. If you have less mucus and thicker mucus with a sticky consistency, it means that the environment of your cervix is not sperm-friendly. There are very few chances to become pregnant if your cervical mucus continues to stay like this during ovulation.  Cervical mucus is affected by factors such as stress, diet, hormonal issues and medications such as ovulation stimulants (for example, clomiphene citrate).

What to do to improve the quantity and quality of the cervical mucus

You can try the following methods to increase your chances of conceiving if you do not have the right quantity and quality of the cervical mucus.

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water.
  • Maintain vaginal hygiene. Always wipe from front to back after using the restroom.
  • Try sperm-friendly lubricants. These look similar to the cervical mucus with an egg-like feel and consistency and pH, too, the same as cervical mucus. Ask your doctor.
  • Never use vaginal douches or perfumes.
  • Do not hesitate to discuss your additional concerns by scheduling an appointment with your doctor.

Let your doctor know if you notice cervical mucus with abnormal color, foul smell and spotting or itching.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/3/2021
References
Medscape Medical Reference

American Pregnancy Association


Mayo Clinic