In early pregnancy, cervical mucus may increase in quantity, and it may be watery or runny. It can be difficult to tell apart from the discharge people get during ovulation, which can resemble egg whites.

A few weeks after ovulation, a person may notice more cervical mucus, or cervical fluid, than usual. The mucus may also have a different consistency. Sometimes, this is a sign of pregnancy.

In this article, we describe how cervical fluid might change if a person is pregnant, other possible causes of these changes, and other early signs of pregnancy.

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Cervical mucus is a fluid that comes from the cervix. It is one of the main components of vaginal discharge, and it is typically clear or white.

In early pregnancy, there may be noticeably more of this mucus than usual. It may also have a runny, watery consistency.

If a person experiences implantation bleeding, the cervical fluid may have a pink tinge. Implantation bleeding occurs around 1 to 2 weeks after fertilization of the egg.

However, not everyone experiences implantation bleeding, and some people who are pregnant do not have noticeably different cervical fluid.

Also, it is typical for cervical fluid to change in quantity and consistency over the course of a menstrual cycle. The changes vary from person to person, but generally, they are as follows:

  • after menstruation, cervical fluid is often thick, opaque, and less abundant
  • approaching ovulation, the fluid may temporarily become clear and elastic, similar in consistency to uncooked egg whites
  • after ovulation, the fluid again becomes opaque and thick

Finally, it is important to note that other factors can change the consistency of cervical mucus. We describe these later in this article.

There is no sure way to tell the difference between the discharge people get in pregnancy versus the discharge they get at ovulation, especially considering that discharge can change throughout the menstrual cycle.

That said, some people may notice a shift in the quantity or consistency of discharge they get over time if they are pregnant. For example, they may have much more than usual, or it may be more watery or milky.

The only way to be sure is to take an at-home pregnancy test or get a blood test from a doctor.

Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), are responsible for the early symptoms of pregnancy. It takes time after implantation for these hormones to build up in the body.

As a result, a pregnant person may not see any changes in their cervical fluid or have any other signs of pregnancy until several weeks after conception.

If a person notices a change in their cervical fluid immediately after ovulation, the cause may be something other than pregnancy.

Additionally, if there is no change, this does not necessarily mean that the person is not pregnant.

Anyone who wants to check their cervical mucus can:

  1. Wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  2. Insert a finger or two into the vagina, reaching up to the cervix.
  3. Sweep around the cervix to touch the fluid.
  4. Pull the finger or fingers out and observe the fluid.

A person may instead be able to check any cervical mucus on their underwear or wiped on a tissue.

Abundant, elastic cervical mucus can be an indication of when a person is most fertile. Anyone trying to conceive may find that checking the fluid regularly helps with identifying their fertile window.

Other factors besides pregnancy can influence what the cervical fluid looks like. Some potential reasons for changes in cervical mucus include:

Semen

When semen mixes with vaginal fluids, it may temporarily change the texture of cervical mucus. The mucus may become cloudy or white or appear more abundant. Some may mistake this for a sign of pregnancy.

Lubricants and other products

Any products that a person uses in, on, or around the vagina may change the color or consistency of cervical fluid, or mimic it.

Some lubricants look similar to cervical fluid, and a person may mistakenly believe that they are producing more than usual.

The menstrual cycle

Around ovulation, a person can produce up to 30 times more cervical fluid than earlier in their cycle. If a person ovulates later than usual, they may interpret this as a sign of pregnancy.

Keeping track of ovulation can help explain changes in cervical fluid.

Infection

Some infections can cause changes to vaginal discharge, including yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Contact a doctor if vaginal discharge becomes:

  • thick and white, with a similar texture to cottage cheese
  • gray
  • bright yellow or green
  • smelly

It is especially important to receive treatment if pregnancy is a possibility, as some vaginal infections can pose a risk to pregnant people and fetuses.

The most reliable indicator of pregnancy is a positive test result after a missed period. A missed period alone is not enough to determine pregnancy, as many factors can cause a delay in menstruation.

Some other potential signs include:

  • a small amount of bleeding or spotting
  • breast pain or tenderness
  • aversions to certain foods or smells
  • food cravings
  • nausea or vomiting
  • dizziness
  • feeling tired
  • mood changes
  • headaches
  • needing to urinate more often

It is important to keep in mind that many other health conditions can cause these symptoms.

A person should speak with a doctor if they have:

  • discharge that is thick and cloudy, like cottage cheese
  • discharge that is yellow, gray, or green
  • discharge with an unpleasant odor
  • itching or burning in or around the vagina
  • pain during sexual intercourse or urination

Also, a person should speak with a doctor if they could be pregnant or have been trying to become pregnant for over a year but have not yet conceived.

During early pregnancy, cervical fluid may look thinner or more watery. If a person experiences implantation bleeding, the fluid may contain a little blood.

However, other factors can also cause these changes, along with the other early signs of pregnancy.

Tracking changes in cervical mucus is not a reliable way to detect pregnancy. Anyone who wants to check whether they are pregnant should use a home testing kit or schedule a blood test with a doctor.