Can You Tell If You're Pregnant By Checking Cervical Mucus?

Vaginal Discharge, Implantation Bleeding, and Leukorrhea During Early Pregnancy

Woman looking in a magnifying glass to exam cervical mucus in early pregnancy
You can exam your cervical mucus all you want during the two week wait, but it's not going to tell you if you're pregnant or not. alvarez / E+ / Getty Images

Does cervical mucus change during pregnancy? And can you detect early pregnancy if you pay attention to these changes? Many women track cervical mucus changes during their cycle so they can time sex for conception. Cervical mucus changes as ovulation approaches, in response to changing hormones.

During the two week wait, when you're desperately looking for signs of pregnancy, it's natural to wonder if cervical mucus could give you a clue.

Here's the disappointing answer: not really.

It can be tempting to look for signs of pregnancy.

Unfortunately, your vaginal discharge may not differ much from what you'd see just before menstruation even if you're not pregnant.

How Does Cervical Mucus Change During Pregnancy?

You may have heard of the term leukorrhea. This is the name for normal vaginal discharge. It is usually thin and milky-white.

The term is frequently used when referring to vaginal discharge during pregnancy, but leukorrhea is also present in non-pregnant women.

During pregnancy, leukorrhea production increases. This is due to increased estrogen and blood flow to the vaginal area. (These are the same reasons for the increase in cervical fluids when you're about to ovulate!)

You might think you can look for the "extra" leukorrhea to detect early pregnancy. But it's not possible.

Leukorrhea changes don't become noticeable until at least 8 weeks or later.

The two week wait (which would make you 4-weeks pregnant, if you're pregnant) would be way too soon.

Cervical mucus plays an important role in your reproductive system. When you're in the non-fertile stages of your menstrual cycle, it becomes thick and sticky to prevent infection. When you're about to ovulate, it becomes more watery and abundant.

This allows the sperm to more easily swim and survive.

When you're pregnant, cervical mucus again has an important job. It increases to develop what will become your mucus plug.

Your mucus plug begins building up in the first trimester of pregnancy. Eventually, it will block the opening of the cervix. This is to prevent infection from entering the uterus and harming the baby.

At the end of your pregnancy, as the cervix begins to dilate and prepare for childbirth, the mucus plug will break down. It may come out in small bits or in bigger clumps.

What About Brown or Pink Tinged Cervical Discharge?

What if you see brown or pink tinged discharge? Could this be a sign of early pregnancy?

Maybe.

Brown or pinkish vaginal discharge could be what's known as implantation bleeding. It's called implantation bleeding because it's frequently seen around the time that an embryo would be implanting itself into the uterine lining.

(There's very little evidence that this is what actually causes the spotting, but that's where the name comes from.)

Even if you see this kind of spotting, it may not be a sign of early pregnancy. There are a number of possible causes for mid-cycle spotting.

What if I Notice More Discharge Right Before My Period?

Those that track their cervical mucus know that it pretty much dries up after you ovulate.

During your menstrual cycle, your cervical mucus "cycle" should go something like this...

  • Menstruation/bleeding
  • Dry or very sticky cervical mucus
  • Sticky, clumpy cervical mucus
  • Creamy cervical mucus (starting to look a lot more like lotion)
  • Watery discharge (increasing in abundance)
  • Egg-white cervical mucus (the most fertile kind, a sign of impending ovulation)
  • Back to dry and sticky (post-ovulation)

You may notice an increase of discharge again right before your period is due. Could that be pregnancy related?

No, not really. Once again, increased blood flow, changing estrogen levels, and the cervix preparing for menstruation can cause this increase in watery discharge.

It's not a pregnancy sign.  

What About Other Early Pregnancy Signs?

So maybe cervical mucus can't tell you when you're pregnant. But what about other pregnancy signs?

"I just knew I was pregnant!" a newly pregnant friend may tell you. "I was more tired and nauseated, I could tell for sure I was expecting."

Stories likes these may encourage you to take notice of "pregnancy signs" like fatigue, morning nausea, and food cravings.

However, the hormones that precede your menstrual cycle can also make you feel fatigued, nauseated, and craving certain foods.

You can't detect early pregnancy by how you feel.

As for friends who swear they could tell, this phenomena is called confirmation bias. They are only remembering the cycle they were pregnant, and ignoring (not consciously) all the cycles when they also had those same symptoms but hadn't conceived.

In the end, you're better off not trying to predict whether you're pregnant by checking your cervical mucus, or by looking for other "pregnancy" symptoms.

As frustrating as it is, wait until your period is late and take a pregnancy test then.

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