How Cervical Mucus Changes Throughout Pregnancy

Vaginal Discharge, Implantation Bleeding, and Leukorrhea During Early Pregnancy

cervical mucus changes

Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

There are changes in the consistency of a woman's cervical mucus during pregnancy and throughout the menstrual cycle. Often, women look for physical signs, such as changes in cervical mucus, as a signal of early pregnancy or as a way to know if it is the right time for conception.

While there are some physical signs of pregnancy or fertility, they are generally subtle, and therefore they should not be taken as indicators of fertility or of pregnancy in the early weeks after conception. This means that even if you experience some of these changes, there is still a big chance that your pregnancy test, which is a more reliable confirmation of pregnancy, will be negative.

Cervical Mucus Changes During Pregnancy

A small amount of vaginal discharge is usually present throughout the month, and it changes during the stages of pregnancy and during the different phases of your menstrual cycle. This discharge is referred to as leukorrhea. It is usually thin and milky-white. The term is frequently used when referring to vaginal discharge during pregnancy, but leukorrhea is also present in non-pregnant women.

During pregnancy, leukorrhea production increases due to increased estrogen and blood flow to the vaginal area. However, it doesn't become noticeable until the eighth week.

In your first trimester of pregnancy your cervical mucus increases, and, over time, develops into your mucus plug. Eventually, this mucus plug will block the opening of your cervix, to prevent an infection from entering the uterus and harming the baby.

At the end of your pregnancy, as your cervix begins to dilate and prepare for childbirth, the mucus plug slowly breaks down and may come out of the vagina in small bits or in large clumps.

Brown or Pink Tinged Cervical Discharge

Brown or pinkish vaginal discharge may occur during early pregnancy. This discharge may be a sign of implantation bleeding. It's called implantation bleeding because it's frequently seen around the time that an embryo would be implanting itself into the uterine lining. Interestingly, there's very little evidence that implantation actually causes the spotting, but the name is based on the timing.

You may not have implantation bleeding at all if you are pregnant. And, even if you see this kind of spotting, it may not be a sign of early pregnancy. There are a number of possible causes for mid-cycle spotting, including hormonal changes and ovarian cysts.

10 Reasons You Might Experience Vaginal Spotting Between Periods

Cervical Mucus and Fertility

Cervical mucus plays an important role in your reproductive system. When you're in the non-fertile stages of your menstrual cycle, it becomes thick and sticky to prevent infection. When you're about to ovulate, it becomes more watery and abundant, which allows the sperm to more easily swim and survive.

During your menstrual cycle, your cervical mucus "cycle" should go something like this:

  • Menstruation/bleeding
  • Dry or very sticky cervical mucus
  • Sticky, clumpy cervical mucus
  • Creamy cervical mucus, which starts to look a lot more like lotion
  • Watery discharge, increasing in abundance
  • Egg-white cervical mucus occurs during the most fertile time of your cycle, and is a sign of impending ovulation
  • Back to dry and sticky (post-ovulation)

You may notice an increase of discharge again right before your period is due, which is caused by increased blood flow, changing estrogen levels, and the cervix preparing for menstruation.

There are a number of signs that you can look for to estimate the best time of the month to get pregnant. Monitoring your cervical discharge can help you figure out your most fertile time, but it is not always consistent, and you should also use other signs and methods if you are trying to become pregnant.

A Word From Verywell

If you are trying to become pregnant, you may take notice of "pregnancy signs" like fatigue, morning nausea, and food cravings. However, the hormones that precede your menstrual cycle can also make you feel fatigued, nauseated, and hungry for certain foods, so you can feel pregnant even when you are not.

Checking your cervical mucus or looking for other "pregnancy" symptoms are not reliable methods of confirming pregnancy. Having a missed period and taking a pregnancy test is the most reliable way to confirm that you are pregnant. Looking for changes in cervical mucus is also not the best method of knowing whether you are at your most fertile time of the month.

The common phenomena of women reporting a 'feeling' of pregnancy is called confirmation bias. Many people remember their early pregnancy signs and ignore or forget (not consciously) all of the cycles when they also had those same symptoms but hadn't conceived.

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