Everything you need to know about cervical mucus
Less known than periods and yet just as linked to the menstrual cycle, today we invite you to discover cervical mucus . The latter is part of the different non-bloody vaginal discharge or white discharge . Understanding how it works is a new key to understanding our body as a menstruator. Where does cervical mucus come from? What is it for ? How to manage cervical mucus on a daily basis? In the following article, we answer all the questions that you didn't even ask yourself about this surprise guest of the menstrual cycle.
What is cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus is a secretion from the vagina and the uterus and more particularly from the endocervical canal , which is the passage connecting the inside of the uterus to the vagina. The cells lining the cervical canal secrete mucus: this is cervical mucus.
Due to its strategic position between the vagina and the uterus, cervical mucus plays a key role in fertility . Thus, it prevents or promotes the passage of sperm to the cervix. During ovulation, it protects the sperm from the acidity of the vagina and its texture allows them to reach the fallopian tubes more quickly where the egg travels. During infertile periods , it obstructs the cervix by forming a plug.
Thus, the consistency of the mucus changes throughout the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle : it is composed of networks of filaments forming a sort of mesh that is more or less tight depending on the period of the woman's cycle. This is why observing the texture and color of your cervical mucus when it is expelled through the vagina is a good way to determine what stage of your menstrual cycle you are at.
Cervical mucus is often light/whitish in color. These colors explain why cervical mucus is confused with other white discharge from the vagina: before going further in the article, let's take the time to focus on the differences between cervical mucus, white discharge and vaginal discharge.
Cervical mucus, vaginal discharge, white discharge: differences
White discharge, vaginal discharge, cervical mucus: these terms are commonly used to refer to non-bloody secretions expelled from the uterus and vagina of menstruating people. And yet, these terms encompass different actions and roles!
White discharge = vaginal discharge
White discharge is the name commonly given to non-bloody vaginal secretions (and therefore different from periods). We also talk about vaginal discharge. They come from different origins and do not have the same roles:
- Cervical mucus comes from the endocervical canal between the vagina and the uterus. It plays an important role in fertility . It is one of the white losses but is not the only one;
- The role of Bartholin's glands is to lubricate the vagina. When you are aroused, such as during masturbation or sexual intercourse, they secrete a colorless liquid called mucus or love juice. This develops inside each gland and travels to the vagina through an excretion duct.
- The Skene glands have the role of secreting a liquid which can be from very transparent to slightly white, of fluctuating thickness, at the time of orgasm. In general, the quantity of this liquid is very small and this secretion goes unnoticed, but the volume emitted during ejaculation varies depending on the woman: some women are thus called “fountain women”. Skene's glands are the equivalent of the prostate in men.
All of these losses are the physiological mechanism by which the vagina cleans itself. White discharge can be secreted continuously: it is not only linked to the menstrual cycle.
What about leukorrhea?
You may have come across the term “leukorrhea” when referring to white discharge or vaginal discharge. This is the medical name given to these losses. They are of two types: physiological leucorrhoea (or in other words “normal”) and pathological leucorrhoea (or in other words “abnormal”, resulting from an infection or an illness). We'll talk about it again later in this article!
Cervical mucus is part of the white discharge but it is therefore not the only white discharge that exists. Distinguishing between the different white discharges (cervical mucus or other) will be discussed in this article.
Cervical mucus during the menstrual cycle
Cervical mucus is produced by the bodies of menstruating people from puberty to menopause and is closely linked to fertility and the proper functioning of the uterus and vagina. It evolves during the menstrual cycle : let's discover together its different roles and functions within the menstrual cycle and in reproduction.
Follicular phase (before ovulation)
The follicular phase is the phase during which the body works to mature an egg within the ovaries. The menstruating person is then not fertile.
The cervical mucus is then scanty, thick and white in color. Similar to a plug, it closes the cervix to prevent the passage of sperm.
At the time of ovulation
Ovulation is when the mature egg is released from one of the ovaries. It then surveys the fallopian tube which separates it from the uterus where it will settle in the event of fertilization. The menstruating person is then fertile.
In the 24 to 72 hours before ovulation , cervical mucus changes texture. She abandons her role as a plug in the uterus. It becomes more abundant, fluid and stringy. In this aspect, it can let sperm pass through.
On the day of ovulation, the texture of cervical mucus is comparable to that of egg white . Abundant, fluid, shiny, elastic and translucent , it promotes the passage of sperm to the uterus and the fallopian tubes.
Luteal phase (after ovulation)
Within 48 hours of ovulation, the egg is either fertilized or dies. In both cases, the menstruating person is no longer fertile and the sperm no longer need to pass into the uterus: the cervical mucus resumes its role as a plug .
Thus, during the luteal phase which follows ovulation and puts the body in working order to accommodate a pregnancy, the cervical mucus dries up and thickens again. It is white/light yellow in color , depending on the person.
At the very end of the luteal phase, when the egg has not been fertilized and the period is approaching, the cervical mucus is thick and may have a yellowish color.
In the event of fertilization , cervical mucus retains its role as a plug : it thus protects the embryo, then the fetus, from infections. This does not mean that there is no more white discharge during pregnancy: on the contrary , the other glands of the vagina continue to work, in particular to hydrate it under the effect of hormone levels which are high during pregnancy. pregnancy !
At the end of pregnancy, cervical mucus, in the form of a large, barely cooked egg white, sometimes “falls out” a few days or even a few weeks before the start of labor: this phenomenon is called the mucous plug. The loss of the mucous plug must be differentiated from a cracking of the water bag: the latter results in the loss of a liquid similar to urine and requires seeing a professional quickly. Consult your healthcare professional if you have any doubts.
And on hormonal contraception?
Under hormonal contraception (pill, implant, patch or even vaginal ring), the functioning of the natural menstrual cycle is modified. The menstruating person is stuck in a long luteal phase, as if plunged into a false state of pregnancy.
Since ovulation is absent under hormonal contraception, cervical mucus never becomes stringy and translucent ! Even more, the hormones distilled by hormonal contraception tend to thicken cervical mucus . It thus forms an airtight plug between the vagina and the uterus, with a very tight mesh, throughout the cycle.
In other words, under hormonal contraception, cervical mucus has the same appearance as during the follicular phase: it is thick and whitish .
Cervical mucus: fertility index
The appearance of cervical mucus therefore changes enormously during the menstrual cycle and particularly as ovulation approaches and at the time of this. This is why the consistency of cervical mucus is a symptom of ovulation and a great indicator of fertility.
Change in consistency of cervical mucus
As ovulation approaches and at the time of ovulation, cervical mucus leaves its role as a plug in the uterus to allow sperm to penetrate the uterus and fertilize the egg about to be released. to be freed. It becomes fluid and develops abundantly.
Concretely, at this time, you will regularly find, on your toilet paper, small packets of slightly trembling cervical mucus, similar to egg white. This means you are about to ovulate or have just ovulated. So you are fertile!
How to observe your cervical mucus?
Observing your cervical mucus is interesting to better understand and know your body. In this section, we give you tools to observe your cervical mucus, in particular to be able to better anticipate your menstrual cycle and your fertility. That being said, you don't have to touch her if it disgusts you and you don't have to carry out these observations every cycle, especially if you don't have a baby plan and are on contraception.
Step 1: Focus on your feelings
Before even considering touching your cervical mucus, it is worth focusing on your sensations. It's very possible that you feel your blood draining out of you when you're on your period – and be aware that the flow of stringy cervical mucus during ovulation is very similar.
Step 2: Observe your underwear
Observing your underwear is certainly the first thing that put you on the trail of the existence of white discharge and cervical mucus... If it's normal and healthy, it's always a little surprising and not always pleasant.
Most frequently, the deposit:
- brownish corresponds to the end of the period when the blood flows slowly and oxidizes,
- whitish and dry corresponds to the follicular phase,
- translucent and viscous corresponds to the time of ovulation
- yellowish and lumpy corresponds to the luteal phase, after fertilization.
Even more, you will be able to spot the different states of cervical mucus on your toilet paper when you wipe. Lumpy and sticky, it’s a safe bet that you’re in the follicular or luteal phase. Abundant, stringy and translucent, you are certainly close to ovulating!
Step 3: Do the glass of water test
Do you want to go even further in observing your cervical mucus? The glass of water test allows you to differentiate your cervical mucus from other non-bloody discharge that may leak from your vagina (love juice, semen, vaginal secretions).
Take a little of the secretion that is questioning you and place it in a glass of water: if it retains its texture, it is cervical mucus, while if it dissolves, it is another type vaginal discharge.
What is “normal” and “abnormal” mucus? How to react in the event of an abnormality?
It is normal and healthy to have different appearances of cervical mucus during the menstrual cycle. However, if it has a particular color, texture, or smell, it may be abnormal and a sign of an infection. In this case, it is important to consult your general practitioner or gynecologist quickly.
My cervical mucus is yellow in color
We mentioned this: depending on the period of your cycle, it is normal to notice a change in the color of the mucus. Yellow color is quite common (and healthy): mucus often becomes yellowish and thicker when it hardens after your fertile window ends. So don't panic if you observe this phenomenon. On the other hand, if this change in texture and color is accompanied by an unpleasant odor and/or itching, discomfort and burning , this may be a sign of a pathology (infection or disease). Most often, it is benign, but it requires a diagnosis and treatment: make an appointment quickly with a health professional.
My cervical mucus is pinkish or brownish
When cervical mucus is pink , it is very possible that a few drops of blood have mixed with cervical mucus . When the mucus is brownish , the phenomenon is similar with the difference that the slowly flowing blood has had time to oxidize and darken – this is often the case at the end of your period and is normal.
Several reasons can explain this phenomenon and they are not necessarily serious (it could be blood linked to ovulation, spotting at the very beginning or end of a period, etc.). It can also be a sore in the genitals or a hormonal imbalance. The presence of cysts can also explain this bleeding. In women over the age of 50, this may be a sign of premenopause.
Generally speaking, if your cervical mucus is pink or brownish around the time of your period or around the time of ovulation, it is very likely that this is normal. If this phenomenon occurs outside of this period and is accompanied by an unpleasant odor and/or itching, discomfort and burning, this may be a sign of a pathology (infection or disease). Make an appointment with your healthcare professional to talk to them about it.
There are traces of blood in my cervical mucus
The presence of red blood in the cervical mucus outside of menstruation can be quite worrying. However, this does not necessarily mean seriousness.
It may be blood loss linked to ovulation (when the egg is released from the ovary, it ruptures a small blood vessel and a little blood leaks out), irritation vaginal or even the implantation of an embryo.
Different pathologies can also lead to metrorrhagia (vaginal blood loss between periods) such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or even a wound in the vagina or uterus.
Beyond a few drops of blood, bleeding outside of your period is not a normal symptom: we recommend that you make an appointment with your healthcare professional if you notice bleeding.
Hygiene and cervical mucus
Cervical mucus is not dirty. Like periods, it is healthy and natural, and it is an important player in the menstrual cycle. That being said, it is not always pleasant to find residue of white discharge at the bottom of your panties or at the level of your vulva... To have the feeling of being fresh throughout the day, several solutions are possible :
- Clean your vulva with water or a suitable intimate product: to avoid infections, it is essential to clean your private parts once or twice a day. Washing with water is enough but you can use an intimate product. 🌈 In store, find our gentle and organic intimate cleansing gel from the Jho brand. In the shower, gently rub this soap on your vulva to clean it;
- Do not clean the inside of the vagina: if it is essential to wash your pubis regularly, do not practice vaginal douching. The white discharge is there to clean your vagina and expel dead skin and other remains of periods and sperm present. Cleaning your vagina risks destabilizing your vaginal flora and leading to diseases and other infections;
- Use intimate wipes to carry out your intimate cleansing: during the day, you can carry out your intimate cleansing after each trip to the toilet using intimate wipes;
- Put on a panty liner: thinner than a menstrual pad, the panty liner protects your underwear and makes you feel fresher! 🌈In store, our favorite panty liners are those from the Jho brand : organic, ultra-thin and very sticky to avoid moving around, they are perfect for feeling good!
Nice to meet you
Welcome to Gapianne
We are 4 friends: Jen, Victoire, Anne and Marine. Like the 34 million French women, we have encountered various issues related to our intimacy. That's why we created Gapianne, a shop that offers the best organic, Made in France and non-toxic solutions for health, as well as detailed resources to support you. We met ?