How to Check Your Cervical Mucus

Checking vaginal discharge can help you recognize ovulation

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Cervical mucus (CM) is secreted by glands found in and around the cervix. Hormonal changes throughout a person's reproductive cycle change the amount and consistency of this mucus. Cervical mucus may also be called cervical fluids or ovulation discharge.

The job of cervical mucus is twofold. Most of the time, it prevents things, such as dirt, germs, or sperm, from entering the uterus through the cervix. However, around the time when ovulation occurs, it also aids in reproduction. CM nourishes and helps transport sperm through the cervix into the uterus to facilitate the potential fertilization of an egg.

You can predict this by checking and tracking cervical mucus changes. To do this, look at and/or touch your vaginal discharge to determine its consistency and color. If it is very watery and stretchy and resembles raw egg whites, you are likely to ovulate soon. This stage of CM is called fertile cervical mucus. This is the best time to have sex if you want to get pregnant.

Research shows that people that regularly check their CM to determine their most fertile window for baby-making sex get pregnant faster. This is because you become aware of where you are in your cycle and when you're about to ovulate. Plus, knowing how your body works can be empowering. It might seem a bit intimidating at first to evaluate your vaginal discharge, but after a few tries, it truly becomes second nature.

How to check cervical mucus
Illustration by Katie Kerpel. © Verywell, 2018.

The Link Between Ovulation and Cervical Mucus

If you already track your basal body temperature (BBT), adding cervical mucus tracking is a good idea to boost your chances of conception. Your basal body temperature (which is your temperature at complete rest) increases when you ovulate. This is caused by the increase in the hormone progesterone.

Your BBT will tell you if and when you ovulated after it happened. But if you want to get pregnant, you ideally need to have sex before ovulation. Cervical mucus changes can alert you that your body is about to ovulate, so you'll know right before ovulation. This information can help you time sex for pregnancy.

As ovulation approaches, your cervical mucus changes from a consistency that's not sperm-friendly to a more fertile variety. While everyone's body is different, the general changes that cervical mucus goes through are:

  1. Menstruation (which isn’t CM, but you won’t be able to detect it when you’re menstruating because of the menstrual fluid)
  2. Dry or sticky
  3. To creamy like lotion
  4. To wet and watery
  5. To a raw egg white consistency (fertile CM)
  6. Then, back to dry and sticky
  7. Until menstruation begins again

Just before ovulation occurs, the hormone estrogen leads to increased cervical mucus and changes it into a thin, slippery, stretchy, viscous-like substance. When cervical mucus is in the wet or raw egg white consistency stage, ovulation is approaching. Fertile CM helps sperm survive and swim in the vagina, and this stage lasts for several days. This is when to have sex if you want to get pregnant.

After ovulation, the hormone progesterone causes cervical mucus to become sticky and thick. This stops sperm (and any other foreign substance) from getting through to the uterus.

How to Check Your Cervical Mucus

Checking your CM is pretty easy. Use the following steps:

  1. Start by washing and drying your hands.
  2. Find a comfortable position, either by sitting on the toilet, squatting, or standing up. Elevate one leg up on the bathtub edge, toilet seat, or chair.
  3. Reach one finger inside your vagina; your index or middle finger is probably best. (Be careful not to scratch yourself.) Depending on how much cervical mucus you're producing, you may not need to reach so far, but getting a sample from near your cervix is ideal.
  4. Remove your finger from your vagina and observe the consistency of whatever mucus you find. Do this by both looking at the mucus and rolling what you find between two fingers, usually your thumb and index finger. Try pressing your fingers together and then slowly moving them apart. Then, note what stage the CM is in. (Learn how to evaluate your sample below.)

If you are charting your BBT, mark down on your chart your cervical mucus findings, too. Abbreviations often used are S for sticky, C for creamy, W for wet, and EW (or EWCM) for egg-white cervical mucus.

How to Interpret Your Findings

You'll want to assess a variety of factors when you check your cervical mucus. Here are some guidelines for interpreting your findings.

If what you find seems sticky, or findings are scant, you're probably not ovulating yet. If what you find is creamy, ovulation may be coming, but not just yet.

If what you find is wet, watery, and slightly stretchy, ovulation is very likely close. This is a good time to begin having baby-making sex. If what you find is very wet, stretches between your fingers for an inch or more, and resembles a raw egg white, your cervical mucus is very fertile. Ovulation is right around the corner, and now is the ideal time for penis-in-vagina intercourse.

If you have any questions or concerns about your cervical mucus, how to evaluate which stage it's in, or if you aren't seeing fertile CM during your cycle, contact your OB/GYN. There may be other issues at play, such as problems with reproductive organs or hormone levels, that are interfering with producing fertile CM.

Things to Consider Before Checking Cervical Mucus

Checking your cervical mucus is pretty straightforward, but there are some ways to make sure you get an accurate sample. Also, some people have conditions that may impact their cervical mucus and make it deviate from the typical cycle. Here are some important things to keep in mind when evaluating your CM.

Wait Until a Few Hours Before or a Few Days After Sex

Don't check your cervical mucus during or right after sex. Also, avoid checking when you're feeling sexually aroused. Arousal fluids are not the same as fertile cervical mucus, but you probably won't be able to tell the difference. Checking after sex is also a bad idea because it's too easy to confuse semen with cervical secretions.

Be sure to wait for a day or two after sexual intercourse to check for CM as you may confuse semen with wet cervical mucus. With experience, you can learn how to differentiate the two, but for the purposes of getting pregnant, assume that you may be approaching ovulation and mark your calendar or chart accordingly.

Touch-Free Ways to Check Your CM

You can assess your cervical mucus by looking at the toilet paper or your underwear. Not everyone is comfortable with putting their finger inside their vagina to check their CM. But you don't have to. You can also (or instead) pay attention to how wet your vulva feels on a day-to-day basis, pay attention to the discharge on your underwear, or look at the toilet paper after urination.

There is, in fact, an entire method based on this called the Billings Ovulation Method. However, many find that it's easier for many women to physically check themselves and reach inside. 

Evaluate Your CM After Bowl Movements

It can improve accuracy to check your cervical mucus after bowel movements. Of course, first, wash your hands well! But if you have trouble finding cervical mucus, it may be easier after using the toilet. Having a bowel movement moves down any vaginal discharge closer to the entrance of your vagina.

Other Indicators of Ovulation to Look For

If you have multiple findings of fertile cervical mucus, you can look for additional ovulation signs besides CM. Some people, especially those with PCOS, have several patches of fertile-looking cervical mucus throughout their cycle. If this is your situation, predicting ovulation by tracking cervical mucus might not work well for you.

But you can pay attention to other ovulation signs, like cervical position changes. You may also want to chart your basal body temperature, so you know which (if any) of the fertile cervical fluids indicated ovulation. 

Note What Medications You're On

Some medicines may interfere with your cervical fluids. Antihistamines dry up more than your sinuses. They also dry up your cervical fluids. Ironically, Clomid can prevent you from having fertile quality cervical mucus, too. In this case, you might not find as much fertile cervical mucus before ovulation. So, you might want to try using an ovulation predictor kit to detect ovulation instead.

Know When to Contact Your OB/GYN

If you never get fertile quality cervical mucus, tell your doctor. Lacking fertile quality cervical mucus can be a sign of a hormonal imbalance or another fertility problem. Cervical mucus that doesn't ever become fertile is sometimes referred to as hostile cervical mucus.

Track Fertile CM Timing and Frequency

You may see fertile cervical mucus twice in one cycle, possibly again right before your period. Some people notice that their cervical mucus becomes wet or almost egg white-like again right before menstruation. Obviously, this isn't a sign of impending ovulation.

People sometimes wonder if getting a lot of cervical mucus just before their period is a possible early pregnancy sign. The truth is that it could be a sign of pregnancy but it's almost impossible to tell the difference between "early pregnancy" cervical mucus and regular "just before your period comes" cervical mucus. So, you'll have to wait a few more days to see if you menstruate or not.

Do Not Douche

Cervical mucus is normal and healthy. Your CMM is disrupted if you douche and it is not recommended by OB/GYNs. Some people think they should wash away "ovulation secretions" because they assume they are unhygienic or unhealthy. However, that is not true. In fact, douching can decrease your fertility.

Keep Hydrated

Make sure you're drinking enough water. Dehydration won’t help your trying-to-conceive efforts. If you’re not drinking enough water, your mucous membranes (which include the cervical area) won’t be as moist. Your body will reserve the water it has for the most vital body functions instead.

Consider Supplements Cautiously

Consult your OB/GYN before adding any supplements to your diet. They may not be needed or may not deliver the desired results. Or they may be detrimental depending on your specific needs, medical condition, and any other medications you take.

Some say that vitamin E supplements can improve cervical mucus quality. However, if you are taking any blood thinners (including daily baby aspirin), you shouldn’t take vitamin E. The amino acid L-arginine is also said to possibly help with increased cervical mucus, by increasing blood flow and circulation by the reproductive organs.

It's also been said that grapefruit juice and green tea may improve cervical mucus quality, but there are currently no clinical studies backing up either of these claims. Do be aware that some prescription drugs can’t be mixed with grapefruit juice.

Before you start any supplements, talk to your doctor. Always tell your fertility doctor about any herbal or "natural" remedies, because some can interact with fertility drugs.

A Word From Verywell

Tracking your cervical mucus changes is a free and easy way to detect ovulation and helps you get to know your fertility cycle better. Don't get discouraged if you're not sure what you're looking at initially. It may take a few months before you learn to recognize the various changes in your vaginal discharge. But once you get the hang of things, you’ll have gained a powerful tool for your trying-to-conceive toolkit.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Evans-Hoeker E, Pritchard DA, Long DL, Herring AH, Stanford JB, Steiner AZ. Cervical mucus monitoring prevalence and associated fecundability in women trying to conceive. Fertil Steril. 2013;100(4):1033-1038.e1. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.06.002

  2. Marquette University, "NFP Quick Instructions for the Marquette Model(Mucus Only)"

  3. University of Michigan Health System, "Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Charting"

  4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Evaluating infertility.

  5. University of North Carolina School of Medicine, "Cervical Mucus Monitoring"

  6. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Vaginitis.

  7. Mayo Clinic, "Vitamin E"

Additional Reading

By Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.