What you need to know about cervical mucus and your fertility

Written by Lesley O'Connor | 10 March, 2022

pregnant woman in pink sweater standing outside holding her belly

Cervical mucus isn’t often talked about in the context of fertility, but the reality is that it is a primary link between your hormones and your fertility.

Whether you’re trying to conceive (TTC), trying to avoid (TTA), or further along on your fertility journey, getting to know the different types of cervical mucus can only be beneficial.

Four types of cervical mucus

  • Type 1: Associated with a dry feeling
  • Type 2: Associated with a damp feeling
  • Type 3: Thick and creamy mucus that has a white or slightly yellow tint
  • Type 4: Transparent, stretchy, or elastic mucus similar to egg whites (peak mucus)

There are different mucus types throughout the menstrual cycle as they change under the influence of oestrogen and progesterone. Mucus types one and two are usually present at the beginning of the menstrual cycle, and approximately three days after ovulation until the start of the menstrual bleed. Types three and four are seen around the time of ovulation.

Oestrogen is highest in our follicular phase leading up to ovulation. This makes the mucus clear and stretchy, which is also known as peak mucus. It can be so stretchy you can spin it between your thumb and index finger for several centimetres. If you’re wondering if you’ve ever seen peak mucus, then you probably haven’t. But don’t worry because not everyone sees this type of mucus.

After ovulation, progesterone rises; this rise causes an abrupt decrease in cervical mucus secretion. The purpose of this is to plug the cervix from anything entering in case of successful pregnancy.

How does cervical mucus relate to fertility?

Cervical mucus types 3 and 4 are highly correlated with the probability of conception, which is known as your fertility window: the 5-6 days of your cycle where you are most likely to get pregnant. This is important if you are TTC or TTA.

Not sure if you’re ovulating? Changes in cervical mucus in the luteal phase of your cycle, along with other symptoms, can confirm if you’ve ovulated. This is part of the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) of contraception. An abrupt decrease in mucus after ovulation, a 0.3° rise in basal body temperature, and changes in cervical position are all used to track ovulation.

In addition to fertility signs, cervical mucus also helps to facilitate fertilisation. As cervical mucus changes closer to ovulation, it improves sperm mobility, allowing them to reach the uterus and better penetrate the ovum (egg). You can see how this it extremely important for successful fertilisation that can result in pregnancy.

When things aren’t as they should be

Cervical mucus can also help prevent infections which can contribute to infertility. It helps to protect the beneficial lactobacilli bacteria while helping to clear pathogens that can cause infections such can candida and bacterial vaginosis (BV).

If you feel like things aren’t quite right with your vaginal health, you can test the pH of the vagina to give you an indication of its environment. The pH of the vagina should sit between 3.8-4.5, If yours isn't it, needs be investigated.

Other symptoms to investigate:

  • If you have cervical mucus most days of your cycle
  • If you have no cervical mucus (in your reproductive years)
  • When cervical mucus is a grey or green colour
  • When cervical mucus texture is closer to cottage cheese
  • A fishy odour associated with cervical mucus

It’s important to work with a health care professional who understands the nuances of cervical mucus and how this can relate to your reproductive health and fertility.

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References:

Evans-Hoeker, E., Pritchard, D. A., Long, D. L., Herring, A. H., Stanford, J. B., & Steiner, A. Z. (2013). Cervical mucus monitoring prevalence and associated fecundability in women trying to conceive. Fertility and sterility, 100(4), 1033–1038.e1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.06.002

Lacroix, Gouyer, V., Gottrand, F., & Desseyn, J.-L. (2020). The Cervicovaginal Mucus Barrier. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(21), 8266. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21218266

Najmabadi, S., Schliep, K. C., Simonsen, S. E., Porucznik, C. A., Egger, M. J., & Stanford, J. B. (2021). Cervical mucus patterns and the fertile window in women without known subfertility: a pooled analysis of three cohorts. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 36(7), 1784–1795.

Ravel, J., Moreno, I., & Simón, C. (2021). Bacterial vaginosis and its association with infertility, endometritis, and pelvic inflammatory disease. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 224(3), 251–257. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2020.10.019

Simmons RG, Jennings V. Fertility awareness-based methods of family planning. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2020 Jul;66:68-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2019.12.003 Epub 2019 Dec 20. PMID: 32169418.


Lesley O'Connor

Lesley O’Connor graduated from Endeavour College in 2018 with a Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy), and then completed a four-month course to become a certified Holistic Doula. In 2021 Lesley opened her own online practice with a focus on women’s and postpartum health. Lesley values a food as medicine approach to health, a significant focus on client education, while also compounding herbal and nutritional medicine products to see improvements on a long-term basis.


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