Discharge, or cervical fluid, is a totally normal, healthy part of the menstrual cycle. The different types of discharge that you encounter throughout the month signal where you’re at in relation to ovulation and how fertile your cervical fluid is. Learn about the types of discharge and their meaning.
The best way to chart cervical fluid is to wipe with toilet paper prior to urinating or take note of the quality of the discharge found in your underwear. Noticing changes in cervical fluid throughout the course of your cycle can help you to learn when you are at your most fertile, which is beneficial for both pregnancy and pregnancy prevention purposes.
Unlike men who are fertile every day, women are only fertile for a few days a month around ovulation. At this time, cervical fluid becomes supportive of sperm nourishment and mobility. Predicting ovulation and the fertile window is done by checking cervical fluid, observing basal body temperature fluctuations, as well as monitoring cervical position. These are all great observations to get familiar with when you’re ready for family planning.
Working with a certified Fertility Awareness Method practitioner is the best way of properly learning the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), as it is most effective through careful and consistent charting. While FAM can also be used for pregnancy prevention, it is an intricate system that must be observed closely and does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
If you’re taking hormonal contraception, changes in cervical fluid may not follow quite the same pattern as listed below. But becoming aware of cervical fluid can help us to develop greater awareness of our bodies and recognize irregularities sooner, like yeast infections, if they occur.
Typically, there are three different types of discharge that occur after menstruation. They can be distinguished as sticky, creamy, and egg white.
3 types of vaginal discharge + their meaning.
Types of Discharge & Their Meaning
Dry or non-existent
The day after your period, you experience dryness. There may be a slight dampness, but nothing that will leave you feeling wet.
As estrogen begins to rise again, you will start to produce a sticky or paste-like form of cervical fluid. This is preparing the body for ovulation.
It should be pasty, white or light yellow in colour with potentially some light clumping in your underwear, without leaving a wet feeling. It might look like glue-like paste, or even flaky. This type of white discharge should not look like cottage cheese – that can be a sign of a bacterial infection.
Dry and sticky.
When this occurs prior to ovulation, it is not the most fertile of cervical fluids, but shouldn’t be written off as non-fertile.
With the next days of your cycle comes creamy cervical fluid that is wetter than sticky cervical fluid.
This lotion-like fluid is beginning to be stretchable, but still not the most fertile. It will likely be white or opaque, wetter than it was in the days prior, smoother, milkier, and may form wet mounds in your underwear.
Wet, moist, and cold.
Estrogen is continuing to rise, and cervical fluid is beginning to thicken. If you are checking cervical positioning, when you insert your finger, you may also notice your cervix is lifting higher and beginning to feel soft and open.
Your most fertile cervical fluid should start to resemble raw egg white.
It is stretchy up to at least 1” between your fingers, without breaking easily, and has a clear or slightly cloudy colour. It is designed to help sustain and migrate sperm for implantation.
Your vagina may simply feel wet and slippery throughout the day, because it is the wateriest of cervical fluids. This will feel different than arousal fluids. Arousal fluids tend to dry quicker (within an hour), whereas egg white cervical fluid will remain wet. It may leave a circle of fluid in your underwear or a general lubricated sensation within the vagina.
Wet and slippery/lubricative.
This is when you are most fertile. The cervix will also be at its highest and feel soft and open to the touch.
If you notice any red or pink streaks or tinge at this time, it may indicate ovulatory bleeding – this is not uncommon but may signal more extreme hormonal fluctuations than what is ideal. Check in with your healthcare provider.
After ovulation occurs, estrogen will drop and progesterone will surge. Cervical fluid should dry up quite rapidly. A day or two before menstruation, you may feel some wetness or discharge again. Otherwise, you are dry from now until menstruation.
Monthly progression of cervical fluid.
If you’ve been curious about what’s going on down there, now you can learn your monthly pattern from dry to wet, followed shortly by menstruation. Your personal transitions from dry to wet will be unique to you, your cycle length, and your contraceptive choices, so it’s always best to chart your own experience to better understand your cycle journey.
Ultimately, though, know that cervical fluids are not “gross”, or dirty. And with better understanding of our menstrual cycle, we can take better care of our menstruating bodies.
- Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 20th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health. Updated, William Morrow Paperbacks, 2015. (52 – 60)