Ovulation Discharge: What It Is and What It Looks Like

Ovulation Discharge: What It is and How It Looks Like
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If you want to get pregnant, then knowing what ovulation discharge is and what it looks like can help you know the best time to conceive. The cervical mucus becomes thicker around the time of ovulation and takes on a jelly-like appearance. This is because hormonal changes in your body when ovulation occurs produces a vaginal discharge that is white, sticky, and has the consistency of egg whites. The discharge around the time of ovulation helps the sperm fertilize the released egg.

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Knowing exactly what ovulation discharge is can be challenging because it can also look like the discharge in the early stages of pregnancy. There can also be other reasons for noticing egg white vaginal discharge that looks like jelly. Therefore, if you are trying to get pregnant, it’s important to know not just what ovulation discharge looks like, but also the other signs of ovulation.

In this article, you will find out all you need to know about ovulation discharge. You will learn about the other signs of ovulation and what can be the other reasons for discharge that aren’t connected with your reproductive cycle.

What is Ovulation Discharge?

Ovulation happens in the middle of your menstrual cycle when one of your ovaries releases an egg for fertilization. In order to prepare your body for sperm to fertilize an egg, hormonal changes increase the amount of vaginal discharge that you have. You will notice that the consistency of your vaginal discharge changes to become more jelly-like around the time of ovulation. It will look like raw egg whites and for this reason it is called egg white cervical mucus (frequently abbreviated as EWCM).

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, vaginal secretions go through different stages before and after ovulation:

  • Before you ovulate, the amount of vaginal discharge increases and becomes stretchy, wet, and sticky.
  • During the ovulation you will notice ovulation discharge that looks like egg white vaginal discharge with a jelly like texture.
  • After ovulation, the discharge becomes milky white and has a thicker consistency.1

Doctors say that ovulation discharge lasts for a few days. Depending on your menstrual cycle, the ovulation discharge can appear between four days before and after the mid-point of your cycle. If you want to know when the highest chance of getting pregnant is, it’s important to keep a menstrual calendar and note changes in your regular vaginal discharge throughout the month.1

According to doctors from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, your cervix produces as much as 30 times more discharge during ovulation than after ovulation.2

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What does Ovulation Discharge Look Like?

The best way to describe what ovulation discharge looks like is that it resembles egg whites in consistency, color and texture.

The American Pregnancy Association says that because ovulation discharge looks like raw egg whites, it is often called egg white cervical mucus (EWCM). This slippery white discharge can also have a clear jelly-like consistency that is odorless.3

The 4 Stages of Discharge (Including Ovulation Discharge)

There are 4 stages of discharge in the menstrual cycle and we will now look more closely at the stages associated with ovulation discharge.

The American Pregnancy Association reports that after your menstrual period the production of cervical mucus is at its lowest. Then estrogen levels increase before ovulation and this causes the cervix to secrete more mucus. The cervical discharge increases and becomes sticky. You may notice that the cervical mucus takes on a white or cloudy appearance.3

The second stage happens as your ovulation date becomes closer. At this stage there will be an increase in the cervical mucus quantity and it becomes moister. Its color may be cream-like in appearance and the discharge will take on a gelatin consistency that feels wet and sticky.

At time of ovulation or just before it takes place there is an abundance of jelly-like clear or white discharge and the consistency of the cervical mucus will be similar to egg whites. This discharge is also called egg white cervical mucus because it looks like raw egg whites.

After ovulation, the amount of discharge produced by the cervix decreases and the discharge looks thicker.

If conception hasn’t taken place, the menstrual cycle will start again when you have your period. The American Pregnancy Association says that the days following your period is when vaginal discharge is at its lowest. As your menstrual cycle progresses, the amount and consistency of discharge changes until it becomes white and jelly-like around the time of ovulation.3

How to Use Ovulation Discharge to Determine your Fertility Window

Taking note of the patterns in your menstrual cycle and when cervical mucus is at its highest and jelly-like can help to determine when you are most likely to conceive.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that sperm live in the reproductive tract for up to 5 days. This means that when you notice that your cervical mucus starts to increase and becomes stretchy and whitish or clear, you are approaching ovulation. The greatest chance of becoming pregnant is when the ovulation discharge is abundant and jelly-like.1

How to Tell the Difference Between Ovulation Discharge and Early Pregnancy Discharge

It can be difficult to tell if your discharge is ovulation discharge or early pregnancy discharge. The discharge of early pregnancy just after implantation is also thick and gelatinous with a clear or white color and sticky consistency.

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Unlike ovulation discharge, which will start to decrease a few days after ovulation, discharge that is associated with pregnancy will continue to be abundant. According to Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD, after conception, the growth of cells in the vaginal wall lining causes a thick white discharge. This sticky, jelly-like discharge can continue for the term of pregnancy.4

You can also tell the difference between ovulation discharge and early pregnancy discharge because you might have signs of implantation bleeding that looks like rust-colored spotting. Also, when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining, you might experience mild implantation cramping.

Other Signs of Ovulation

Apart from a thick jelly-like discharge around the time of ovulation, there are other ways to tell if you are about to ovulate.

Abdominal cramping

Abdominal cramping is a sign of ovulation that many women experience.

As the amount of cervical mucus increases as ovulation approaches, you may also have mild to severe abdominal cramping. This can be a reason for menstrual cramps without a period and can cause lower stomach pain on the left side or right side.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, this type of one-sided abdominal pain in women happens just before ovulation. This cramping associated with ovulation is called mittelschmerz and causes ovulation pain in the pelvic area for some women every month or just occasionally.5

Ovulation spotting

It is not uncommon for women to experience light spotting around the time of ovulation.

Ovulation spotting happens because fluctuations in your hormones and the egg being released causes uterine contractions and some light bleeding. Doctors from Medscape say that ovulation is the most common reason for mid-cycle vaginal bleeding. When estrogen levels dip during ovulation, this can be enough to cause some spotting.6

Although ovulation spotting is a normal part of the menstrual cycle, there are many reasons not to ignore spotting before your period.

Breast tenderness

Changes in your hormone levels during ovulation mean that your breasts may feel more tender than usual.

Breast tenderness is a form of what doctors call cyclical breast pain that is linked to the menstrual cycle. According to doctors from Johns Hopkins Medicine, mastalgia (breast pain) for many women can start around the time of ovulation and last until the beginning of the menstrual period. You may find that the pain is only light, however, the breast pain may be so severe that it impacts your daily activities.7

Depending on your menstrual cycle, breast pain might only affect one breast at a time. The breast pain may also be felt in the area under your right arm or left arm.

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Basal body temperature as a sign of ovulation

Your basal body temperature (BBT), which is the lowest body temperature attained during rest, along with thick, jelly-like discharge can also help to spot the signs of ovulation.

To know your average basal body temperature, it’s important to chart your temperature every day throughout your monthly cycle. According to Dr. Kathleen Romito on WebMD, your BBT drops slightly just before ovulation and stays at that temperature for 24 hours. Then after the egg is released, your basal body temperature gradually rises.

To get an accurate reading of your BBT you will need to use a basal thermometer, which is sensitive enough to measure tiny changes in body temperature.

Other Causes of Jelly-like Discharge

Although vaginal discharge is a normal part of the menstrual cycle, there are some conditions that can cause thick jelly-like discharge.

Yeast infection

A vaginal yeast infection, or candidiasis, can cause thick white clumpy discharge that has no odor.

Candidiasis is caused when there’s an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina that causes yeast to overgrow and produce thick white secretions. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the discharge from a yeast infection may resemble cottage cheese. You will also have redness, itchiness and irritation at the vaginal opening and may have pain when urinating.9

There are a number of natural ways to treat yeast infections and clear up white jelly-like discharge that they cause. For example, probiotics or yogurt can help to improve your vaginal health and prevent infections from occurring. You can also try rinsing your vagina with diluted apple cider vinegar or use coconut oil for candidiasis.

Bacterial infection

Discolored vaginal discharge that has an offensive odor may be a sign of a bacterial infection.

A bacterial infection may not cause thick white gelatin discharge that happens with ovulation, but it will cause a frothy yellowish or green-tinted abnormal discharge. Dr. Sarah Marshall on WebMD says that bacterial infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV) can result in large amounts of grayish discharge with a fishy odor.10

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To find out how to use tea tree oil as an antibiotic for bacterial vaginosis, as well as other natural remedies, please read my article on natural home remedies for vaginal bacterial infections.

Birth control

Using birth control methods is one reason for vaginal discharge that is thicker than normal with a jelly-like consistency.

According to doctors from the National Health Service, discharge is usually heavier if a woman is using birth control methods to prevent pregnancy.11 Dr. Jane Harrison Hohner on WebMD says that in the first few months of using birth control pills, you may experience some brown discharge before your period.12

Pregnancy

Pregnancy can cause vaginal discharge that is thin throughout the term of your pregnancy and may become thicker and like jelly near the end of pregnancy.

Doctors from the National Health Service say that most women have discharge during pregnancy. However, in the week before you give birth, your vaginal secretions will become thick like mucus and may even have streaks of blood.13

If you notice any changes to your discharge during pregnancy or you have signs of a urinary tract infection, you should speak to your doctor.

Stress

It is possible that if you are under emotional or psychological stress your vaginal discharge can increase and become thicker with a jelly-like consistency.

Stress can cause fluctuations in hormone levels which can interfere with your menstrual cycle. This can cause you to have heavier periods or even miss your period completely.

Regarding the relationship between vaginal discharge and stress, the International Journal of Epidemiology reported that abnormal discharge can be attributed to mental health. Some studies indicate that about one-third of women who experience heavier discharge say that stress is an underlying factor.14

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. According to doctors from Mayo Clinic, one of the symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease might include heavy vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor.15  Other symptoms include lower abdominal or pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding between periods, pain during intercourse, fever and painful urination.

When to See a Doctor About Thick Jelly Like Discharge

If you experience thick discharge during the middle of your cycle that has a jelly consistency and no odor, then you shouldn’t worry. This is usually ovulation discharge that increases just before ovulation and becomes thicker when the egg is released.

However, vaginal discharge that is an “off” color or has a strong fishy smell is usually an indicator that there is an issue with your vaginal health. Therefore, doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend seeing a doctor for discharge in the following circumstances:16

  • The vaginal discharge has a greenish or yellowish look or resembles white cottage cheese.
  • There is a strong odor from the discharge that is offensive.
  • You have signs of irritation around your vagina like swollen labia, redness, and itching.
  • You have abnormal spotting or vaginal bleeding that is not connected to your menstrual period.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources:

  1. MayoClinic. Getting pregnant.
  2. PAMF. Vaginal discharge.
  3. AmericanPregnancy. Cervical mucus and your fertility.
  4. WebMD. Pregnancy symptoms.
  5. MayoClinic. Mittelschmerz.
  6. Medscape. Experts discuss abnormal uterine bleeding.
  7. HopkinsMedicine. Breast pain (mastalgia).
  8. WebMD. Basal body temperature (BBT) charting.
  9. MayoClinic. Yeast infection (vaginal).
  10. WebMD. Bacterial vaginosis.
  11. NHS. Vaginal discharge.
  12. WebMD. Brown spotting before period.
  13. NHS. Vaginal discharge in
  14. Int J Epidem. 2005 Aug;34(4):862–863.
  15. Mayo Clinic. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  16. MayoClinic. Vaginal discharge. When to see a doctor.
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