According to Healthline - Cervical mucus is a natural secretion of the female body, which is produced by the cervix and eliminated through the vagina.
It is natural to notice changes in cervical mucus throughout the menstrual cycle, and it can become sticky or fluid, more transparent or whitish, thicker or more voluminous. Healthy cervical mucus does not smell and is not accompanied by other symptoms such as itching and burning in the vagina.
Cervical mucus performs several important functions for women's health and fertility. It helps protect the deeper reproductive organs, such as the uterus and the fallopian tubes, from infection by pathogenic microorganisms, which are those capable of causing disease.
At certain periods of the menstrual cycle, cervical mucus facilitates the mobility of spermatozoa to the uterine tubes, where they can fertilize an egg cell (ovum).
It is important to know the natural variations of cervical mucus throughout the menstrual cycle, so that you are aware of any abnormal characteristics that may appear in the discharge, such as a change in color and smell.
These changes need to be identified, as they may indicate some infection in the genital area or some hormonal disturbance, health conditions that require specific medical treatment.
See more details about what cervical mucus is, what the normal variations are throughout the menstrual cycle, how to recognize the abnormal changes in cervical mucus, and understand its functions in the female body.
Cervical mucus: what is it
Cervical mucus is a substance produced and secreted by glands in the cervix, whose characteristics vary throughout the menstrual cycle.
The cervix, also called the cervix, is the anatomical region that separates the upper and lower reproductive organs.
The upper tract of the female reproductive system is composed of the uterus, the uterine tubes, and the ovaries. And the lower tract is composed of the vulva, the vagina, and the cervix.
Cervical mucus helps protect the reproductive organs of the upper tract from microorganisms that can easily access the reproductive organs of the lower tract. In this sense it helps to bar the migration of bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, and other microorganisms to deeper regions of the pelvic region.
Variation of cervical mucus throughout the cycle
Throughout the menstrual cycle, changes occur in the reproductive hormones that reflect in changes in the characteristics of the cervical mucus, especially in its volume, consistency, and opacity.
These different characteristics of mucus are easily observed in underwear or during personal hygiene. In some phases of the menstrual cycle, the vagina can expel larger volumes of cervical mucus that are visible on the underwear, as a transparent, white or slightly yellowish, odorless discharge.
Estrogen is the hormone responsible for stimulating vaginal lubrication and the proliferation of cells of the endometrium, which is important for increasing its thickness, necessary for embryo implantation.
In most of the cycle, the mucus has a thicker consistency, which hinders the movement of spermatozoa from the vagina to the uterus.
These characteristics are typical of the beginning of the menstrual cycle (beginning of menstruation) and 6 to 9 days after the beginning of menstruation, when the sensation that the vagina is dry becomes more evident.
Close to ovulation
When the ovulation period is near, the mucus starts to become sticky and white. As estrogen production increases, cervical mucus becomes creamier and more moist.
During ovulation (fertile period)
When a woman reaches the fertile period, that is, 10 to 14 days after the beginning of menstruation, the mucus becomes transparent, abundant, elastic, slippery, and stringy, much like egg white.
This thinner mucus facilitates the sperm's movement to the uterine tubes, where they can find an egg and fertilize it.
This period of the cycle is the most favorable for fertilization, so the woman may notice an increase in her libido and vaginal lubrication, accompanied by a slight swelling of the tissues that make up the vulva.
After the fertile period until the beginning of the next period, progesterone levels increase and estrogen levels decrease, to prepare the uterus for a possible pregnancy. Because of this, the cervical mucus becomes quite viscous, sticky, and not very voluminous.
Other factors that alter mucus
The consistency of cervical mucus can also vary in response to contraceptive use and hormonal dysfunction, as it is directly influenced by estrogen levels.
During pregnancy, cervical mucus also becomes stickier and whitish, as a way to prevent the migration of bacteria from the genital region to the deeper reproductive organs, where they could initiate an inflammatory response dangerous to the health of the mother and fetus.
After delivery, it is natural for the body to eliminate remnants of blood, mucus, and placental tissue that are no longer needed. Thus, as uterine contractions occur to return the uterus to its normal size, it is possible to observe a more bloody cervical mucus in the first days, and then a more whitish appearance from the 10th day on.
At menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogen and, consequently, the production of cervical mucus decreases, leaving the vagina drier.
Variations in cervical mucus can also indicate a hormonal problem or an infection. These problems are usually accompanied by other symptoms or by changes in the length of the menstrual cycle and menstruation.
The abnormal signs that can appear in cervical mucus are:
Consistency: it may become thinner or thicker than normal, or have textures
Color: It can be gray, green, yellow, or brown
Volume: It can be thicker than normal
Odor: it may be fetid, similar to the smell of rotten fish, or it may have a more metallic odor
Functions of cervical mucus
The cervical mucus is very important for fertility, because depending on the phase of the cycle, it acquires characteristics that facilitate the migration of spermatozoids to the uterine tubes.
Within this context, the analysis of the characteristics of the cervical mucus composes a natural method to avoid or try a pregnancy, called Billings method or cervical mucus method. Through this method, the woman can identify when she is in her fertile period.
In addition, the cervical mucus in the fertile period protects the sperm from the natural barriers that exist in the female reproductive system, such as the acidic environment, which makes it difficult for them to reach the uterine tubes.
Another important function is to protect the female reproductive organs of the upper tract against the action of bacteria that can infect the vaginal region and the cervix, by the action of the antibodies present in the fluid.
The cervical mucus helps, for example, to stop the spread of bacteria that cause sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, to deeper parts of the reproductive tract, where they could cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Pelvic inflammatory disease can consist of several inflammatory conditions involving the endometrium (endometritis), the uterine tubes (salpingitis), and the cervix (cervicitis).
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