Cervical mucus plays an important role throughout a womans menstrual cycle, and women who understand how their mucus changes during their fertile days can greatly increase their odds of getting pregnant during any one cycle. Do you know how your cervical mucus can help you conceive?

What is cervical mucus?

The fluid excreted by your cervix throughout the menstrual cycle is called cervical mucus. Youll notice some of it as vaginal discharge, but cervical mucus is much more than a self-cleansing tool for the vagina. Stimulated by the female hormone estrogen, cervical mucus changes throughout your cycle. During the beginning of your cycle, right after your period has come to an end, youll have only small amounts of cervical mucus. It will both increase and change in structure as you approach ovulation. During the luteal phase of your cycle, after ovulation, your cervical mucus will be much thicker.

Why is cervical mucus so important, and why does its structure change during your menstrual cycle? If you track your ovulation using, for instance, ovulation tests, you may have noticed that your cervical mucus looks thick and creamy when youre not fertile, or that youll have next to none at all. During these non-fertile times, cervical mucus actually serves to prevent sperm from getting through by creating an inhospitable physical structure and pH balance. Sperm are unlikely to get beyond the cervix. Instead, thell get stuck to the side of the vaginal wall, or they are damaged trying to reach the cervix.

The fertile window — the days leading up to ovulation and ovulation day itself — is a different story altogether. Your mucus consistency and pH balance are perfect during this time. It helps guide sperm through the vagina and the cervix, into the uterus so that they can continue their onward journey and hopefully reach their final destination and penetrate the egg.

Cervical mucus is pretty essential to couples who want to get pregnant, then. It can also play a huge role to couples who wish to prevent pregnancy. Hormonal birth control methods tend to suppress ovulation and change the thickness of uterine lining. They also help prevent pregnancy in another way: by creating hostile cervical mucus impenetrable by sperm.

Cervical mucus as a tool to help you get pregnant

Its interesting enough that something most women think of as a minor annoyance before they try to conceive is actually an essential key in the conception process, but you can use cervical mucus to determine exactly when you are fertile too. Monitoring the structure of your cervical mucus is easy. Simply wash your hands and insert your index finger and thumb into your vagina. Then, take a look at what you see. Some women are so good at monitoring their cervical mucus that they can pinpoint where in their cycle they are without even noting down the date of their last menstrual period, or using ovulation tests.

Your cervical mucus will go through the following stages:

1. Menstrual period. Periods typically last between four and six days and are obviously clearly observable. Most women notice their menstrual bleeding dying down toward the end of their periods.

2. Early follicular stage mucus. You probably wont have a lot of cervical mucus. The mucus you do have is sticky in structure and may be slightly cloudy in appearance. It may be white or slightly colored. As your cycle goes on, mucus production goes up and youll notice the consistency becomes thinner and more liquid-y.

3. Pre-ovulation and ovulation cervical mucus. As your ovulation approaches, you will notice that your cervical mucus increases in quantity and becomes more slippery. It is often transparent in color, which leads many women who are trying to conceive to refer to it as egg-white cervical mucus. This type of fertile cervical mucus will stretch between your fingers if you pull them apart slightly. This is the sign that having sex could be very productive right now!

4. Luteal phase cervical mucus. After your ovulation has been and gone, your mucus will become much thicker and denser. It will also be sticky once again — not the type of stuff that helps sperm reach its end goal, at all.

Some women notice that their mucus does not follow this expected pattern, and that they never notice the fertile cervical mucus described above. You could have an infection or a fertility problem if this happens, so see your doctor about it. If your mucus does follow the expected pattern and you faithfully observe it, youll hopefully find that it is a dandy tool you wont have to use too long because youll be pregnant soon!