Your guide to cervical mucus and how to tell when you're ovulating

A surprisingly shared experience, the vaginal fluids that come out of us can get a bit confusing.
Written by
Kate Evans
Reviewed by
Last updated on
June 3, 2024
min read
Your Guide to Cervical Mucus and Signs That You're Ovulating | Kin Fertility
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There are a lot of weird and wonderful things that go on in our reproductive system. And thanks to the oversharing on TikTok, we've realised that the majority of us share the exact same experiences.

One of them? The telltale — not drip — but more of a blob or a gloop, that we women just intrinsically know the feeling of. You know the one. But is it the red goo? (Menstrual blood). Or is it the white one? The white goo that could be vaginal discharge, cervical mucus, or the dreaded thrush?

A surprisingly shared experience, the vaginal fluids that come out of us and onto our undies (or toilet paper) can get a bit confusing.

But whether you're tracking your menstrual cycle, tracking cervical mucus, or figuring out your fertile window (to get pregnant or avoid pregnancy altogether), it's good to know what's up with your goo.

What is cervical mucus?

To understand what cervical mucus is, we have to get into your cervix (metaphorically).

What is the cervix?

Your cervix, if you're not familiar with it, is the lower, narrow part of your uterus; the small canal that connects the vagina to the uterus [1].

In fact, the cervix marks the end of your vagina. It can't be penetrated by a penis or a sex toy; it's the reason tampons can't get "lost" inside of you. Besides childbirth, it's only fluids in and fluids out.

What is the endocervix?

You then have the inner part of the cervix, the actual canal itself — that's called the endocervical canal (also known as the endocervix) [2]. If you've ever experienced the joy of getting a pap smear...well, that's what's getting papped.

How is cervical mucus made?

This canal is lined with glandular cells that make mucus. And mucus made in the cervix is called what? Yep, you guessed it — cervical mucus [2].

Cervical mucus itself is, to use scientific terminology: "An aqueous or gel mixture of ­proteins and mucopolysaccharides, ions and ­compounds, and cells" [3].

What hormone is responsible for cervical mucus?

Hormone levels cause cervical mucus to change throughout your menstrual cycle — in texture, volume and colour as well [4].

The patterns of the cervical fluid produced by your body are in response to estrogen increases. And then, it's in response to estrogen levels dropping back down, while progesterone takes over as the dominant hormone [5].

Confused? We'll clear it all up in a moment.

What triggers egg-white cervical mucus?

See — here we are, to clear it up. But first, a little warning. You might be put off from eating (or cooking with) egg whites for just a little bit after this.

So throughout your menstrual cycle, you have fluctuating hormone levels, which we've touched on. Right before ovulation, your estrogen peaks. And with that, estrogenic mucus — also known as E mucus — secretes [3].

It's clear, wet, stretchy and slippery — said to resemble raw egg whites [4]. This kind of slippery cervical mucus is actually great for potential sperm, ideal to facilitate the transport (and survival) of those little swimmers. Think of it as a first-class flight to your uterus [3].

Looking to conceive? This is the time to have sexual intercourse; it increases your chances of getting pregnant [4].

When does egg white discharge occur?

Well, if you're looking for a specific date — we can't tell you that. Everyone's cycle is different.

However, we can predict ovulation slightly more easily; most medical sources put it at 12-14 days before the start of your next menstrual period (which is why keeping note of when your menstruation occurs comes in handy) [6].

And we know egg white cervical mucus predates ovulation by a few days, so you're looking at around days 8-12 or 10-14 of your cycle [4]. Once again, remember this is dependent on the individual length of your cycle.

How does the menstrual cycle affect vaginal discharge?

And while we're on the topic of your period, it's time to talk about how your cervical mucus changes throughout it — helpful info to have if you're planning on tracking your cervical mucus.

Remember how we talked about the hormone estrogen causing watery cervical mucus? Well, the other hormone that comes into play is the hormone progesterone. The changes in your cervical mucus correlate directly to the cyclic fluctuating hormone levels of these [3].

So first off, you have your period — this doesn't count in terms of cervical mucus, but we need to set up the timeline for you.

After your period ends, your vagina can feel quite dry — and your cervical mucus will reflect this; it's dry or tacky, white or yellow-tinged [7].

Around days 4-6 (based on a 28-day cycle) after your period finishes, you'll notice your cervical mucus has become more sticky in texture. Visually, it looks slightly damp and white.

In the following few days, you'll notice it becomes more creamy, with a consistency like yoghurt.

It's just prior to the halfway mark that your cervical mucus becomes clear and stretchy, resembling raw egg whites [7]. At roughly days 10-14, you'll notice it's also slippery, and very wet.

After day 14, you'll notice less cervical mucus; vaginal discharge is dry until your next period. [4]

How can I tell if there's something wrong with my cervical mucus?

If your vaginal discharge does not follow the rough calendar above, or you're not noticing egg-white cervical mucus on a monthly basis, there are a few things that could affect this.

Firstly, it may be something as simple as the fact you're on birth control — whether birth control pills or another form of hormonal contraception. It may be the lubricant you use; if you're planning to get pregnant, the fertility lube has been uniquely formulated to mimic the cervical environment.

It may be that you have an infection, whether a sexually transmitted one or a vaginal infection (e.g. bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections). If you're at all concerned, the best thing to always do is reach out to your healthcare provider.

How long after egg white cervical mucus do you ovulate?

You ovulate around day 14 — this is generally the last day in your cycle when you see fertile cervical mucus or ovulation discharge.

It tends to take place 4 days after cervical mucus that looks like raw egg whites appears [8].

How do you know when ovulation occurs?

It's not just cervical mucus that helps you predict ovulation — there are other signs of ovulation, and ways to know as well.

Your temperature changes

One other sign includes your basal body temperature, a method of natural family planning. Basal body temperature is your temperature when you're fully at rest; at the time of ovulation, your temperature may increase slightly [9].

Take your temperature daily every morning, roughly at the same time each day. Use a thermometer designed specifically to measure basal body temperature, and record your daily readings. You're looking for an increase of 0.3C.

Yes, that's a small change to look for, but if it remains like this for 3 days or more, then ovulation has likely occurred.

Track this over the course of a few months, and you'll be able to see patterns emerge — which is helping for whether you're trying to avoid pregnancy or prevent pregnancy, or if on the other end, you're engaging in family planning [8].

Tests to take

Of course, this isn't a fool-proof method, so we recommend combining it with ovulation tests. These handy tools can help you discover when you're ovulating without having to rely solely on watching your changing mucus.

What is the cervical mucus method?

The phrase 'natural family planning' that we just mentioned before? The cervical mucus method is another example of this.

And just like taking your temperature and charting it, this time, you chart cervical mucus changes throughout the month.

As we've discovered, there's fertile cervical mucus and less fertile cervical mucus. Keeping a record of these throughout your menstrual cycle can help you know your most fertile days, especially if you are planning to get pregnant.

How do I check my cervical mucus?

There are two main ways to check your cervical mucus:

  • Using a clean finger, place it inside your vagina. Remove your fingers to see if it resembles raw egg whites.
  • Look at your underwear. Yes, you can track cervical mucus by seeing what's on the gusset of your undies; and note when you have more watery cervical mucus, or at the other end when cervical mucus thickens.

The cervical mucus method is also known as one of the fertility awareness based methods, as well as the Billings ovulation method.

So how can cervical mucus help me get pregnant?

Well, we mean, it is a 2-person job — having cervical mucus like raw egg whites isn't going to do it all by itself.

But your cervix does act as a valve — and when you've got the raw egg white type of cervical mucus, it facilitates the transport of sperm. This is the clinical fertile window and is the perfect time to have timed intercourse [10].

When cervical mucus is more sticky or tacky, it's working to inhibit the transport of sperm.

And, fun fact, the 5 days before ovulation — together with the day your ovary releases an egg — are the days when you're most likely to get pregnant. As for sperm? It can live up to 5 days inside the body [7].

Photo credit: Getty Images

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