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White cervical mucus might indicate periods in the menstrual cycle right before ovulation and when a woman is ovulating. Mucus typically appears white or creamy during these stages of the menstrual cycle, but the consistency and amount of discharge changes when fertility reaches its peak. White cervical mucus appears sticky or tacky before ovulation, becomes cloudy and stretchy a few days later, then takes on the appearance of egg whites at ovulation. Some women track changes in cervical mucus to increase the chance of becoming pregnant or to avoid conception.
In a process called the Billings method, charts that record white cervical mucus are used in an effort to help women predict times when they are most likely to conceive. Estrogen released by the ovaries changes the consistency of vaginal mucus to create an ideal environment for sperm to penetrate the cervix and enter the uterus. Sperm might remain alive up to three days in white cervical mucus that resembles egg whites.
Cervical glands produce mucus to lubricate and protect the cervix and vaginal canal. It acts as a barrier to keep bacteria out of the uterus. The appearance, amount, and consistency of mucus changes four times within each monthly menstrual cycle to either block penetration of sperm or allow its easy passage.
Immediately after a woman menstruates, usually very little mucus exists. This is called a dry period, when sexual intercourse might be safe for those who want to avoid becoming pregnant. If traces of mucus exist during this phase, it might appear thick, cloudy, and tacky when touched. Thick mucus blocks sperm from entering the cervix, causing it to remain in the vagina for a few days before cells die.
As eggs begin ripening in the ovaries, the amount of cervical mucus increases, and it might look thin and clear. This mucus might feel sticky or slippery, but lacks the stretchy consistency of egg whites. This wet period occurs before ovulation occurs, meaning it might be safe to engage in intercourse without conceiving during this time.
The final day of this wet period typically signals ovulation and the best time to become pregnant. The white cervical mucus excreted at this time might be called spinnbarkeit, which comes from the German language and means stretchable. This thin, pale white cervical mucus will stretch farther if tested between the fingers. A woman might remain fertile for three or four days during this stage of the menstrual cycle before mucus begins to dry up.
Several factors might alter the color and texture of cervical fluids, including the use of douches and products manufactured for feminine hygiene. These normal changes might also change as menopause approaches and in women using hormonal contraceptives or spermicides. Sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal infections, and some medications also change the appearance of mucus.