We are hesitant to become intimate with the less appealing parts of natural bodily functions, but changes in cervical mucus can be one of the greatest clues to determining when ovulation is about to occur. Cervical mucus is a natural secretion of the cervical glands designed to moisten and protect the cervix. The nature of the discharge changes with the various phases of your menstrual cycle.
As with most reproductive functions, hormone levels cause the changes in cervical mucus. As the menstrual cycles progresses, the ovaries increases the amount of estrogen released. The estrogen not only directs the mucus to change the nature of its make-up, it also creates changes in the cervix to make conception a possibility.
There are four basic changes in cervical mucus each month. It may take several cycles for a woman to become familiar with these differences. To determine the pattern of changes, it is best to record them noting the color, consistency, amount, and slipperiness.
There will be little or no cervical mucus present the first few days following your period. The vulva should be dry. Lack of cervical mucus is an indication that conception is not possible at this time.
Early mucus begins just prior to ovulation. It is a thick mucus that is sticky and white or creamy in color. When subjected to finger testing, the mucus will break easily when you pull your fingers apart. As your cycle progresses, the cervical mucus will begin to look cloudy and will increase in volume tenfold. The cervical mucus will stretch further during the finger test, but will still break before your thumb and forefinger are stretched completely apart. There is a possibility that you could get pregnant at this point.
Highly fertile mucus occurs at ovulation. It is thin, stretchy and clear or pale white much like egg whites. It is often referred to as egg white mucus due to its resemblance. The volume of the mucus will continue to increase at this time until ovulation reaches its peak when the chances of conception are at their highest. It is the stretchiest mucus and can be stretched several centimeters between the thumb and forefinger before breaking.
Unlike the other stages of mucus, the egg white mucus at the time of ovulation provides an optimal environment for sperm. This slippery and stretchy mucus is much less dense than any other form of cervical mucus. This change allows sperm to pass through to the uterus much more easily. Also, sperm can live for two to three days in this type of mucus while waiting for a fertilized egg to arrive.
The changes in post-ovulation mucus and egg white mucus are drastic. The amount decreases and it becomes sticky. This mucus is not as stretchy as the previous mucus. The vulva becomes dry again. Chances of becoming pregnant at this time are markedly low.
As you become more familiar with your cycle, you will be able to more easily identify the various stages your cervical mucus goes through each month. However, there are several factors that can cause cervical mucus to change, thereby making it harder to understand the cycle. If you intend to rely on charting your cervical mucus as an aide to determine the best time to conceive, then you should not use douches, lubricants, and spermicides.
Other things to consider before beginning to rely on cervical mucus as an indicator are if you are taking any medications including antihistamines and diuretics, the fertility drugs Clomid and Gonadoptropin, antibiotics, cough medicines, tranquilizers, antibiotics, and vitamins as they can also make interpreting cervical mucus difficult. Vaginal infections, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, breastfeeding, and stopping birth control pills can change the nature of cervical mucus. If any of these factors are of concern to you, then you should schedule an appointment with your health care provider.