Vaginal discharge, cervical mucus, leukorrhea- it all refers to the same thing. Hereafter I’ll refer to it as “CM” (cervical mucus). It seems that generally speaking, women I see in my practice either are quite unaware of what changes in their CM mean or are worried that any CM is a sign of infection. I hope this article will help to de-mystify your discharge and, just maybe, make you feel a little amazed by it. Possibly even happy to see it? By knowing what to look for and what it all means, you can feel more empowered and make better decisions.
Your CM Is Trying To Tell You:
- Where you are in your cycle. To sum it up, CM (cervical mucus) is one of the best ways to gauge where you are in your menstrual cycle (one cycle is the time from the start of one period to the start of the next one, roughly a month) and changes based on estrogen levels. The amount of estrogen is lowest when your period starts, gradually increasing leading up to ovulation (when an egg is released and you could get pregnant). This is why just after your period, you may either not see any CM at all or very small amounts of sticky fluid. However over the next week, as estrogen goes up, more fluid will appear and it will become more liquid-like. It will be either watery or creamy. When estrogen is at its highest, you might even notice mucus that is the consistency of raw eggwhites (hereafter called “EWCM”). You might notice a glob of it on your toilet tissue or in your underwear. After ovulation, estrogen decreases again and progesterone takes over. The CM at this point becomes stickier, like glue or isn’t noticeable at all. The take-home message? High estrogen = more CM, especially the very wet or eggwhite type.
- When you are at your most fertile. You are absolutely at your most fertile when you see eggwhite cervical mucus. If you are trying to get pregnant, this is one of the best indications that you’re at peak fertility and you should get down to business. Business, meaning, intercourse of course. Keep in mind, not all women get large quantities of this type of CM, and it’s not necessarily a sign of decreased fertility if you’ve never seen it. One fact that is completely amazing to me as a science and fertility nerd is that sperm are actually fed by nutrients in this type of CM and it contains little channels that help sperm swim up to meet the egg. This is in contrast to the sticky CM present during other parts of your cycle, which don’t have channels, and instead actually has criss-cross fibers that trap the sperm to prevent them from going anywhere too quickly.
- If you have a yeast or bacterial infection. So what’s not normal? Anything involving itching, swelling and/or redness or a foul odor warrants investigation. During pregnancy, persistent discharge which does not itch or cause other symptoms is a common symptom and is totally normal.
Other things that can affect your cervical mucus:
LEEP procedures or Cone Biopsies– These are procedures that check for abnormal cells on the cervix and can lead to decreased production of CM. Some of the glands in the cervix that produce mucus are removed in these procedures.
PCOS- Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (see my blog on this condition here) often have many days of EWCM (a week or more at a time). This is because their bodies don’t ovulate as efficiently and estrogen levels are high without triggering the release of LH (leuteinizing hormone- it’s what makes the egg release from the ovary).
Birth Control Pills- if you’re taking a monophasic pill (same level of hormones throughout the month), your CM will stay the same all month, and is generally sticky to dry. If you’re taking a triphasic pill, it may change slightly but is usually also sticky to dry.
What if I am trying to get pregnant and think I might not have enough CM?
If you are trying to get pregnant and have little to no cervical mucus, try using a lubricant such as Pre-Seed, Yes Baby or Coconut Oil (just to name a few). Other types of commonly available lubricants can impair the sperm’s ability to swim.