If you are experiencing infertility, there are constantly questions surrounding you about why this is happening to you. You search for medical answers--emotional and physical--and sometimes you simply come up empty-handed. It's time to look at cervical mucus hostility.

I experienced secondary infertility when my husband and I were trying to have our second child. For a long time, I felt bad telling people I had secondary infertility because I already had one child- it didn’t seem fair that I could use the term “infertility” when my first pregnancy was successful. But we had three miscarriages in a row, with no explanation that we could find, and I was at a loss.

I remember turning to Dr. Google for just about everything. I looked up reasons why I was experiencing secondary infertility. Was it medical? What was wrong with my body? Was it emotional? Was my body telling me I wasn’t ready to have a second child? Could I not handle a second child for some unknown reason? Was there something that was making these babies not “stick” for some reason?

When you are experiencing infertility everything runs through your mind. Is it cancer? Is it an autoimmune disease? Will I ever have a baby? You blame yourself- maybe I was running too much or working out too hard; maybe I wasn’t eating the right foods- when in reality, usually infertility has to do with something that is completely out of your control.

In researching reasons why I may not be getting pregnant or why my pregnancies weren’t “sticking” I found something I had never heard of before. Something my doctors had never mentioned that might be an issue resulting in infertility. And that is hostile cervical mucus.

What is cervical mucus?

Let’s start off by talking about what cervical mucus is and its function in a woman’s body. According to Healthline.com, cervical mucus is defined as, “fluid or gel-like discharge from the cervix. Throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, the thickness and amount of cervical mucus change. This is because of hormone levels fluctuating throughout your cycle. Hormones stimulate glands in the cervix to produce mucus.”

Changes to cervical mucus occur throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle. This can help women track their ovulation to help them get pregnant or avoid pregnancy. Cervical mucus can look a little different for everyone, but there are some basic changes that most women will notice throughout their cycle:

During your menstrual period, blood will cover the mucus, so you likely won’t notice it during these days.

After a period, you may have dry days. On these days, you might not notice any discharge.

A few days before ovulation, your body produces mucus before an egg is released, or before ovulation occurs. It may be yellow, white, or cloudy. The mucus may feel gluey or stretchy in consistency.

Right before active ovulation, your estrogen levels will rise. You may see more clear, stretchy, watery, and slippery mucus. This mucus may remind you of the consistency of egg whites.

During ovulation, the clear, stretchy mucus that’s the consistency of egg whites will be present during ovulation. The texture and pH of this mucus are protective for sperm. This is important to keep in mind when we discuss hostile cervical mucus.

In the days following ovulation, there will be significantly less discharge. It may turn thicker, cloudy, or gluey again. Some women experience dry days during this time as well.

It is important to note that cervical mucus is an important part of getting pregnant. It plays a significant role in creating an environment where sperm can live. Without it, sperm is not able to get into the uterus.

What is hostile cervical mucus?

Hostile cervical mucus is basically cervical mucus that is not conducive to fertility and makes getting pregnant difficult. According to VeryWell.com, “hostile cervical mucus can refer to severe vaginal dryness, problems with vaginal secretions that are too acidic, or refer to immunological problems…[Factors such as] age, vaginal infections, medication side effects, and hormonal imbalances are some causes of cervical mucus problems. Even fertility drugs can cause issues with vaginal dryness.”

Before and during ovulation, your cervical mucus changes so as to create an environment conducive to allowing sperm to live and thrive. The clear, stretchy, almost egg white-like mucus actually nourishes the sperm and makes it easier for it to travel through the cervical canal. Without the proper type of cervical mucus, sperm will not be able to live or travel through the cervical canal into the uterus.

There are several types of hostile cervical mucus that can stop sperm from traveling through the cervix. These different types of hostile cervical mucus include:

  • Thick, dry, or sticky mucus which is often caused by hormonal imbalances. A thickened consistency directly interferes with sperm motility. Some medication side effects can cause this.
  • Acidic mucus creates an environment hostile to sperm. While hormonal irregularities can interfere with pH balance, the acidity may also be the result of a bacterial or yeast infection.
  • Inflammatory cells are produced in response to an infection. When this happens in the vagina or cervix, the cells can actively target and kill sperm.
  • Anti-sperm antibodies are defensive proteins produced by the immune system in response to a past infection where sperm was either present or involved. While less common, these antibodies can also attack and kill sperm.

In some cases, the issue of cervical mucus can be remedied by medication to balance hormones or to take care of infections. In other cases, such as the case of auto-immune disorders in which antibodies kill the sperm, things like in vitro fertilization may be the only option for families who are trying to conceive.

Factors that can change your cervical mucus

There are several other factors that can change your cervical mucus. Some of these things can be easily remedied while others may need medical attention or medication to overcome:

Age- As we age our bodies change. This includes our cervical mucus. Often times women produce less cervical mucus as they get older, or the cervical mucus is not as conducive to helping sperm thrive.

Fertility medications like Clomid- Some women have found that taking a fertility medication, specifically Clomid, has changed their cervical mucus to the point that it makes it difficult to get pregnant even on the medication.

Douching- Douching is a practice of cleaning your vaginal area but it can be detrimental to the pH balance of your vagina. Douching is no longer recommended by doctors or OB/GYNs in general, and it should be avoided if you are trying to get pregnant.

Being underweight- Being underweight can cause a change in your menstrual cycle, which can change how your cervical mucus is produced which can, in turn, affect your fertility.

Hormonal imbalance- Sometimes hormonal imbalances can cause cervical mucus to change. When this occurs, medications to help balance your hormones can sometimes help.

How to treat hostile cervical mucus

How hostile cervical mucus is treated depends greatly on the cause. However, general treatment for hostile cervical mucus include:

  • Antifungal or antibiotics can be used for the treatment of any cervical or vaginal infection if present.
  • If you are on prescription medication like Clomid or some other medication, changing or lowering the dosage may help.
  • The quality and production of cervical mucus can be improved by a short-term prescription of ethinyl estradiol, which a synthetic estrogen, if there is a hormonal balance in question.
  • If there are no signs of anti-sperm antibodies and other infections, fertility-friendly lubricants can be used to increase lubrication and provide a synthetic environment to live.
In the most severe cases, intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be explored to help a couple conceive.

How to examine your cervical mucus

If you think you have an issue with your cervical mucus, you can examine it at home and keep an active record of its changes throughout your menstrual cycle. There are a few different ways you can examine your cervical mucus according to healthline.com including:

Manually- Track your mucus daily by inserting a clean finger or two into your vagina, near the cervix. Remove your finger and note the color and texture of the mucus on your fingers.

Toilet paper- Wipe the opening of your vagina with white toilet tissue. Do this before you pee or use the restroom. Note the color and consistency of the mucus or discharge on the tissue.

Check underwear or a panty liner- Look for changes in discharge on your underwear daily. Or, use a panty liner to track changes. Depending on the color of your underwear and the amount of time that’s passed, this method may be less reliable than other methods.

Be sure to keep a journal of the changes so you can record how your cervical mucus changes over time. If you are trying to get pregnant or trying to avoid pregnancy, this method can also help you track your ovulation if you do not have hostile cervical mucus.

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