When you're trying to conceive (TTC), you become a certified expert in your cervical mucus and discharge. Monitoring changes in your discharge can be a great way to figure out exactly when you're ovulating and, thus, when it's time to bring your A-game and try for a baby. After your fertile window ends and you're waiting to see if you've been successful, you're likely still monitoring your discharge — it becomes a habit, after all. What should your discharge look like? Is early pregnancy discharge like ovulation discharge? When you're trying to conceive, it's normal to have a ton of intimate questions. Luckily, the experts have answers for us.
"Ovulation discharge is stretchy and smooth," Alicia Johnson, a certified nurse midwife, tells Romper. "Pregnancy discharge is usually white and might be watery." Johnson says that it's actually easy to tell the difference between early pregnancy discharge and ovulation discharge. "If you have had your period two weeks, or less, before you are experiencing the discharge, it is ovulation," she says. "If you have missed your period and have discharge, it is pregnancy discharge."
When you're nearing ovulation, your vaginal discharge changes in both look and feel. Go to any online TTC forum and you'll see everyone talking about their "EWCM," which stands for "egg white cervical mucus."
"Typically before ovulation, vaginal discharge becomes higher volume, clear, and maybe even a bit slippery," Dr. Caitlin Szabo, an OB-GYN at Taylor, Suarez, Cook, Khan, and Zertuche in Atlanta, Georgia, tells Romper. Generally, your body produces this specific type of vaginal discharge on the day you begin ovulating, as reported by Parents. After you've ovulated, the discharge will gradually become thicker in consistency and then decrease.
Johnson says this type of discharge serves a very specific purpose. "Ovulation discharge is stretchy and smooth so that the egg can 'slide' through the fallopian tube to meet the sperm," she says. "Pregnancy discharge is white because of the many white blood cells the cervix produces to flush bad bacteria away from the baby inside the uterus."
While vaginal discharge can tell you a lot about your body, Szabo doesn't believe it to be a reliable indicator of pregnancy. "The best way to know if you are pregnant, though, is a urine pregnancy test," she says. "Call your doctor if you have a positive home pregnancy test, so that you can be set up for prenatal care early."
While your vaginal discharge might not be the first symptom that alerts you when you're pregnant, it does change during early pregnancy. The discharge a woman experiences in early pregnancy is called leukorrhea, which What To Expect describes as a thin, milky white, mild-smelling, or even odorless, discharge.
While the two types of discharge may look and feel different, they have one thing in common — there is a lot more of it during both pregnancy and ovulation. According to VeryWell Family, "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!)"
While vaginal discharge is normal, and an increase in discharge is typical when you're ovulating or pregnant, it is important to contact your doctor if something feels or seems off. "All discharge can become a problem if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as a very foul-smell, itchiness, redness, pain, and/or any obvious sores on the vulva or vagina," Szabo says. But without any of those symptoms, again, ovulation and early pregnancy discharge is not a cause for concern.
Your vaginal discharge can tell you a lot about your body — and it's completely normal for the color, consistency, and amount to change throughout your cycle and throughout pregnancy. Pay attention to what's going on down there, and don't ever be afraid to ask your doctor all your discharge-related questions.
Alicia Johnson, certified nurse midwife
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