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Cervical mucus methods help you predict when you’re going to ovulate by tracking the changes in your cervical mucus (vaginal discharge) throughout your menstrual cycle.

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How do I use the cervical mucus method?

The hormones that control your menstrual cycle also make your cervix produce mucus — the gooey stuff on your cervix that comes out of your vagina as discharge. Your cervical mucus changes in color, texture, and amount during your menstrual cycle (especially around ovulation).

To use the cervical mucus method to prevent pregnancy, you check out your mucus every day and write the results on a chart. The changes in your mucus help you figure out when you’re going to ovulate and are able to get pregnant. During your safe days, you can have unprotected vaginal sex. On your unsafe (fertile) days, either don’t have vaginal sex or use another method of birth control.

The cervical mucus method is also called the ovulation method or the Billings method. It’s best to start this method with the help of an expert — like a doctor, nurse, or a family planning counselor — because it can be hard to learn on your own.
Don’t rely on the cervical mucus method for birth control until you’ve been charting your mucus for at least 1 cycle. The cervical mucus method is more effective if you use it with the temperature method (AKA basal temperature method). Using these together is called the symptothermal method.

Another type of cervical mucus method is called the 2-day method.

How do I check my cervical mucus?

You have to feel and look at your mucus (or discharge) every single day, and record what you notice on a special chart.  You can start tracking your mucus the day after your period stops completely.

You can check your cervical mucus 3 ways:

  • Wipe the opening of your vagina (BEFORE you pee) with white toilet paper or tissue. Check the color and feel of the mucus.

  • Look at the color and texture of the discharge on your underwear.

  • Put clean fingers into your vagina, and then check the color and texture of the mucus on your fingers.

The best way to feel the consistency of your mucus is to rub it and pull it between your thumb and index finger. Record everything you notice about your mucus on a chart daily: your period days, dry days, wet days, sticky days, cloudy days, and slippery days.

When you first start charting your mucus, it’s best to avoid vaginal sex for 1 whole cycle (or use condoms). Sex can make your body produce more or different mucus, which can be confusing when you’re starting out.

What should my cervical mucus feel like?

Your cervical mucus changes throughout the month, depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle:

  • During your period, the blood flow covers your mucus, so you won’t notice any. Days when you’re on your period are unsafe days.

  • Right after your period, you usually have 3-4 days without mucus and discharge. These are called “dry days,” and they may be safe days if your cycle is long.

  • Before ovulation is about to happen, your body makes more mucus as an egg starts to ripen. This mucus is usually yellow, white, or cloudy, and it feels sticky or tacky. You may notice it at the opening of your vagina for 3-5 days. These days are less safe.

  • Right before and during ovulation, you usually have the most mucus. It’s clear and it feels slippery — kind of like raw egg whites — and can be stretched between your fingers. These “slippery days” are your fertile (unsafe) days, when you’re the most likely to get pregnant. These unsafe, slippery days last about 4 days, leading up to (and including) when you ovulate.

  • After ovulation, you may suddenly have less mucus, and it’ll get cloudy and sticky again until it goes away and you have more dry days. This lasts for about 11–14 days. These cloudy, sticky, and dry days are all safe days. 

  • Then, your period starts and the cycle repeats.

What are the safe days to have sex when using cervical mucus method?

“Safe” and “unsafe” days vary from person to person and depend on the length of your menstrual cycle. During your safe days, you can have unprotected vaginal sex. On your unsafe (fertile) days, don’t have vaginal sex or use another method of birth control.

Safe Days

In general, you have one main phase of safe days: Safe days start after ovulation — when the most slippery mucus goes away and your discharge is cloudy and sticky and then goes away, leading up to your period. This lasts for about 11–14 days on average.

If you have a long cycle, the dry days that come right after your period may also be safe. (See the 2nd bullet above.)

Unsafe Days

In an average cycle, you have three main phases of unsafe days:

  1. The days during your period are unsafe, especially if you have a short cycle. This is because you can’t know what your cervical mucus looks/feels like when it’s mixed with period blood.

  2. Another unsafe phase comes a few days after your period ends but 2 or 3 days before the first signs of slippery mucus — while your body is making mucus that feels sticky or tacky. 

  3. Unsafe days continue while your body creates slippery mucus leading up to ovulation. These unsafe, slippery days last for about 3-4 days. Unsafe days end about 4 days after slippery mucus peaks.

What can cause changes to my cervical mucus?

Certain activities or conditions can alter your natural cervical mucus and make this method less effective and difficult to use. These include:

  • Vaginal sex

  • Using lube (either for sex or during a pelvic exam)

  • Using some medications

  • Breastfeeding

  • Surgery on your cervix

  • Douching

  • Early menopause

  • Using hormonal birth control recently (including the morning-after pill)

  • Sexually transmitted infections

  • Vaginitis

Cervical mucus methods aren’t a good match for people whose bodies don't produce very much discharge. Talk with your doctor if you’re using this method to prevent pregnancy and have concerns about your mucus.

What’s the 2-day method?

The 2-day method is a simpler kind of cervical mucus method. It works best if you’re totally sure you can tell whether or not you have mucus every day.

The 2-day method is easy to use. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have cervical mucus today?

  • Did I have cervical mucus yesterday?

If you answer no to BOTH questions, it’s safe to have vaginal sex. If you answer yes to JUST ONE question, use birth control or don’t have vaginal sex.

People using this method may only have 12 safe days during each cycle.

When is the best time of day to check my cervical mucus?

It doesn’t matter what time of day you check your cervical mucus, it just matters that you check it each day. Unlike the temperature method (AKA basal temperature method), you don’t need to check your cervical mucus first thing in the morning. The important thing is to just be consistent about checking it every day.

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