Cervical Mucus: What It Looks Like When We're Most Fertile

Maressa Brown | Apr 23, 2014 Pregnancy
Cervical Mucus: What It Looks Like When We're Most Fertile
Image: iStock.com/Piotr Marcinski

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iStock.com/Piotr Marcinski

When we make up our minds that it's time to start trying for a baby, it can be tricky knowing exactly when we should be "doing it." Most of us know when ovulating is supposed to happen, but when is that exactly? While ovulation typically happens 14 days before a period, that can fluctuate from woman to woman. And precision is key.

Over-the-counter ovulation tests can help, but they can be pricey. The best thing to do is to take cues from our bodies by following the ovulation method (or Billings method). Once we know when we're ovulating, our chances for a successful conception will improve. The key to knowing when ovulation is occurring? Cervical mucus. It sounds icky, but trust us, cervical mucus is our best friend when we're trying to conceive.

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A few things to know:

1. Check for ovulatory mucus at the same time every day.

2. Check after a bowel movement to get the best "read." Look at toilet paper after wiping or insert a clean finger into the vagina and reach for the cervix.

3. Wear black underwear, or a dark panty liner, especially around the time of suspected ovulation. (To better see it.)

4. There are four different phases of discharge: Fertile, highly fertile, not fertile, and least fertile. By knowing what all four look like (see the helpful images in our slideshow), it's easier to recognize the highly fertile cervical mucus (and know when to have sex for best baby-making results).

Bear in mind: "Every woman has a different pH balance, a different level of bacteria and good yeast in the vagina that can cause different amounts of discharge," says midwife Kristin Mallon, CNM. So if it's hard to detect four distinct types of discharge during the course of one's cycle, it's no cause for concern.

Good luck!

conception guide
Daquella Manera/Flickr

  • Phase 1: Watery Cervical Mucus (Fertile)


    Image via martinaphotography/Flickr

    "Most women will have a drier time of the month after their menstrual cycle," explains Mallon. After that, estrogen begins to rise, as you head into the ovulatory portion of your cycle. That's when you'll initially watery, liquidy discharge, which is considered second best to the most fertile. (It's not as conducive to helping sperm along.) You'll know that this is the phase you're in if it drips or runs off your fingers -- or you worry you've leaked urine.

  • Phase 2: 'Egg White' Cervical Mucus (Highly Fertile)


    Image via Samuel F. Livingston/Flickr

    The most fertile cervical mucus -- which, if you have a 28-day cycle, you're most likely to see around days 11-13 -- is often described as resembling raw egg whites, due to its clear color and consistency. "Usually if you put two fingers into the mucus, it stretches, which makes pathways for the sperm to follow," explains Mallon. Once you see this cervical mucus, try to have sex at least once a day for three days -- the two days preceding ovulation and the day of ovulation (day 14).

  • Phase 3: Creamy, Opaque Cervical Mucus (Not Fertile)


    Image via thecampells/Flickr

    Once ovulation comes and goes, you may see this thicker, more opaque, and creamy mucus -- often likened to hand lotion -- which will generally "pop" open as opposed to stretch. "The thickness is the effect of progesterone levels rising," explains Mylene Yao, M.D., OB/GYN. "This is not that good for the sperm, but it doesn't matter because it's not the right time for the eggs to be fertilized."

  • Phase 4: Cloudy, Tacky Cervical Mucus (Least Fertile)


    Image via Chalome/Wikimedia

    The final phase just before your period is thick, tacky, and cloudy. It's considered the least fertile, because it's the most difficult for sperm to make its way through. It's often described as having the consistency of glue from a glue stick.

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