If you have done a little research on getting pregnant you've probably come across references to cervical mucus. But you may be wondering why it matters and how to identify it.

Many people are shocked to discover that the vagina is inhospitable to sperm in its natural state. The body alters the pH of the vagina in the days leading up to ovulation in order to support sperm survival and transport. It does this by creating fertile cervical mucus at the opening to the uterus. Not only is the identification of this fertile mucus critical for the correct timing of intercourse or insemination, but an overabundance or lack of this mucus can signify hormonal issues that may impact your fertility.

How to Identify Fertile Cervical Mucus

Using toilet paper that is folded flat, wipe from the front of your vulva (near the clitoris) to the back of your perineum (the area between your vulva and your anus). Notice the sensation on the perineum as you do this wipe. Is it dry? Or does it feel slippery?

Next, look at the tissue to observe for the presence or absence of mucus. If there is something there, try picking it up between your fingers to observe for color and stretchiness. Generally speaking the more clear and stretchy it is (like egg white) the more fertile it is.

How Much Mucus Is Normal?

It is normal to have anywhere from three to seven days of "peak" mucus - that is mucus that is either clear, stretchy (will stretch between your fingers at least an inch) or has a lubricative sensation. However, you may only notice mucus once a day, so it is important to check throughout the day (whenever you go to the washroom) so you don't miss it.

Many people also experience a creamy or pasty mucus as they transition in and out of their fertile days. This is normal. However, if you have many days in a cycle with mucus that looks like hand lotion, toothpaste or rubber cement, it would be a good idea to get checked for hormonal imbalances.

Yellow mucus, either that stretches a bit or congeals into a small ball, is often a sign of inflammation that you may choose to address with a health care provider.

How to Keep Track of Your Cervical Mucus

In order to determine your most fertile days, it can be helpful to track your cervical mucus. You can use paper charts from the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. You can also chart online using apps that are designed specifically for charting primary fertility signs. Examples include Kindara, Groove, Clue, and Ovuview.

How to Time Intercourse or Insemination

Time intercourse for days with the highest quality mucus, alternating days to allow for sperm to regenerate. Don't be concerned if this does not correlate with a positive result on your ovulation predictor kit (OPK). It is normal for the ovulation hormone surge to occur a day or two after mucus has dried up. This is fine since sperm can live up to five days in the presence of healthy cervical mucus.

What To Do If You Don't Notice Cervical Mucus

If you don't see any mucus, first review your observation technique. Make sure you are checking every time you go to the bathroom, with particular attention to what occurs following bowel movements, as mucus is likely to move closer to the vaginal entrance. If you are still not seeing any mucus, or very little, you may want to seek support from a Certified Fertility Awareness Educator (FAE). They can help you improve your technique.

If your technique is good and you are still not seeing mucus, there are a number of possible causes:

  • Since fertile mucus is triggered by estrogen, it may be that you have low overall hormone production. Make sure you are getting lots of good quality fats in your diet since cholesterol is the building block of all sex hormones.
  • Another possible cause of low cervical mucus is damage to the cervical cells themselves. This may occur if you have had an infection or surgical procedure on the cervix itself. If this is the case, you will want to seek support from a fertility clinic.
  • Folic Acid is a key nutrient for cervical health, as well as the health of a developing fetus. Make sure you speak to your health care practitioner about a good quality prenatal vitamin with plenty of Folic Acid.

What To Do If You Are Seeing Cervical Mucus For Most of The Cycle

Excessive mucus production can be a symptom of ovulatory disorders, cervical health issues, estrogen dominance, or chronic inflammation (resulting from environmental irritants or auto-immune issues). Coming off hormonal contraceptives can also result in excessive mucus production for a few months.

Long periods of creamy or egg-white mucus production prior to ovulation usually signal a problem with the ovulatory process itself, since estrogen is rising but failing to trigger ovulation.

Continuous mucus of a yellow or creamy nature throughout the preovulatory and postovulatory phase of the cycle can indicate cervicitis and should be checked by your doctor.

Creamy mucus throughout the postovulatory phase of the cycle is usually a sign of an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone and can be addressed through a combination of diet, herbal supplements, and progesterone medication if needed.

Yellow mucus in any phase of the cycle is usually indicative of an inflammatory response. The source (food sensitivities, household mold, etc.) should be identified and eliminated.