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

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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.

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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!

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