January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and learning about your cervical mucus is an important step in taking proactive measures when you are trying to conceive, especially if you are tracking ovulation. Not all cervical mucus, however, is sperm-friendly, making it difficult for a woman to become pregnant.

You are probably familiar with your cervical mucus because, if you are a woman, you have dealt with vaginal discharges on your underpants or toilet paper and might have wondered what the different varieties of it meant.

Cervical mucus is a fluid or gel that changes in consistency depending on the time of the month. Hormones stimulate the differences around ovulation, making it more watery.

Knowing what your cervical mucus should look like can help you plan or avoid pregnancy. Tracking your cervical mucus either by manually noting its characteristics or by using a tracking app will give you an understanding of when you most likely are ovulating. According to the Mayo Clinic, around 23% of women will become pregnant using this natural family planning method.

What is normal-looking cervical mucus?

  • After your period: The cervical mucus generally is dry, and there will be no discharge.
  • Before ovulation: You might see yellow, white or cloudy mucus that is gluey or stretchy. Just before ovulation, it transitions to being clear, watery, stretchy and slippery and looking like egg whites as the result of rising estrogen levels.
  • During ovulation: Your mucus will continue to look like egg whites and its pH and texture will protect sperm, so this is the ideal time for pregnancy.
  • After ovulation: You will notice less of a discharge or none at all.

Can your cervical mucus cause fertility problems?

Your cervical mucus changes at ovulation so that it will protect sperm. Before and after ovulation, your cervical mucus is acidic and, generally, is not compatible for sperm to move through the cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes.

However, there can be several reasons why your sperm could become ‘hostile’ to your cervical mucus:

  • Thick, dry or sticky mucus caused by hormonal imbalances and ovulatory issues
  • Acidic mucus that is the result of infections or pH irregularities
  • A dairy-rich diet that can cause your mucus to thicken
  • Inflammation caused by an infection
  • Vaginal dryness or lack of egg-white consistency ‘fertile’ cervical mucus while taking Clomid or another medication
  • Aging when you produce less cervical mucus and have more ‘dryer’ days
  • Anti-sperm antibodies that are an immune response from a previous infection involving sperm

Home remedies for more ‘fertile’ cervical mucus

Stay hydrated: Drinking more water leads to more water secretions as well as mucin proteins, leading to a looser mucus and better sperm transport.

Take Mucinex: Your doctor might recommend taking a decongestant like Mucinex that contains guaifenesin as its ONLY active ingredient and which can help improve the quality of cervical mucus. Like water, it will increase water secretion from mucus-secreting tissues in the cervix, making mucus looser. Don’t buy a decongestant with anti-histamines; this could make matters worse.

If you seek medical treatment, your doctor may recommend medication therapy depending on your diagnosis or decide to bypass the cervix altogether by performing intrauterine insemination.