Do You Have Too Much Vaginal Mucus?

Vaginal secretions (which may contain cervical mucus or cervical fluid, because it is secreted by the cervical glands) changes in amount, consistency, and even smell throughout the phases of the menstrual cycle. Some women check their cervical mucus to help predict ovulation so that they can time sex to increase or decrease the odds of conception.

Even if you're not trying to conceive or prevent pregnancy, it can be useful to know how much vaginal mucus to expect and when, as well as what's normal for you. Becoming familiar with your cycle and changes in vaginal secretions and cervical mucus can help you monitor your overall reproductive health.

Normal Cyclical Mucus Changes

After menstruation, cervical mucus goes through several stages, each lasting one to three days. Typically, it is dry for the first few days after your period, then becomes slightly sticky, and then creamy, like lotion. Next, you may notice the mucus becoming more wet and watery, before developing a raw egg-white consistency. Typically, this is the point of your cycle where you have the most vaginal discharge.

It's normal to have one to five days of this egg white vaginal mucus just before ovulation, or approximately the midpoint of an average, healthy cycle. Normally, a peak in luteinizing hormone (LH) and estrogen leads to an increase and change in cervical mucus, and this peak comes just before ovulation. How much of an increase you might see in cervical mucus is different for everyone.

Following this one- to five-day period of increased cervical fluid, there is another dip in fluids where the mucus becomes dry and sticky again before menstruation. However, some women experience another instance of egg-white vaginal mucus just before menstruation begins.

Variations in Vaginal Mucus

Every body is different, but in some cases, there are reasons for differences in cervical fluids. If you are having difficulty tracking your cervical mucus, or you notice a sudden departure from what is normal for you, discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Vaginal Infections

It is important to distinguish normal vaginal secretions due to your hormonal cycle from vaginal discharge due to infection. Healthy vaginal mucus will be clear or slightly yellowish, while gray or green discharge with foul odor or accompanied by itching or irritation can be a sign of infection.

If vaginal discharge is more like the consistency of cottage cheese, has a bad smell, increases significantly or suddenly, or you're experiencing itchiness or irritation, see your doctor for a check-up and possible treatment.

Inflammatory Reactions

Sometimes the tissues of the vagina or vulva can be sensitive to cleansers, clothing, or other items and this can cause an allergic reaction or contact irritation. Symptoms typically include itching or pain, but increased discharge may also occur. Inflammatory conditions, including plasma cell vulvitis (this is rare) and DIV (desquamative inflammatory vaginitis), may also cause excessive discharge.

Intercourse

Vaginal secretions during arousal or after intercourse are often difficult to distinguish from cervical mucus and leftover semen, since the substances all tend to be colorless and can be similar in consistency. Semen is watery, but it will not stretch like fertile vaginal mucus. Egg white cervical mucus is also more mucus-like, while leftover semen is thinner in consistency.

Medical Issues

Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may ovulate less frequently or not at all, making it tricky to track cervical mucus changes (particularly as they relate to ovulation). Other medical issues, including thyroid problems or excessive and severe stress, might also interfere with ovulation and with cervical mucus production, quality, and quantity.

Cancers of the reproductive system are rare. But occasionally, bleeding or abnormal vaginal discharge can be a sign of a female reproductive cancer (such as cervical, uterine, or ovarian cancer).

Hormonal birth control may also lead to an increase in vaginal mucus and discharge, especially when you first start taking it and your body is adjusting to the changes in hormone levels.

Tracking Mucus for Fertility Timing

Fertile vaginal mucus can signal that ovulation is coming. But if you have several patches of fertile quality vaginal mucus throughout your cycle, it can be difficult to know which (if any) of these indicates impending ovulation.

In conjunction with looking for changes in your cervical mucus, ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) offer another way to predict ovulation before it occurs so you can time sex appropriately for conception (or to avoid conception, if that is your goal). These kits do not confirm that ovulation occurred, but rather predict likely ovulation and indicate that the hormonal changes necessary for ovulation were detected.

Keep in mind that a fertile egg is viable for fertilization for up to three days after ovulation, and sperm can survive in fertile cervical mucus for up to five days. This provides a several-day window of opportunity for conception.

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