It is common for a woman to experience some vaginal dryness throughout her childbearing years, but if this continues it may be a sign of a hormone imbalance, an infection, and can make it difficult to get pregnant. Who knew that getting “wet” down there was not only important to the comfort and ease of enjoying intercourse, but for making a baby as well. The cervical mucus a woman produces actually helps in conception efforts. Here’s how…
What is Cervical Mucus and Why is it Important?
The cervix produces mucus that varies in consistency and amount depending on where a woman is at in her menstrual cycle. Just after menstruation, when the estrogen levels are low, the cervix produces a fluid that is thick and acidic which is designed to prevent sperm from entering the vagina. This is known as infertile mucus.
Fertile cervical mucus (CM), also known as cervical fluid (CF) is produced by your cervix as ovulation approaches and depends on a good supply of estrogen from the ovary. Cervical mucus is necessary for allowing the sperm to swim freely through the cervix. You can see it come from the vagina, or as wetness on your underwear or feel it inside of the vagina. Changes in CM can be charted and may be used to detect your most fertile time. When a woman is about to ovulate there should be an increase in thin cervical mucus, as well as a change in the mucus texture, from “wet” to a more pliable, stretchy, egg white like mucus. This is possible through an increase in both water and electrolyte content, and a reduction in acidity. This higher electrolyte content can be seen with an ovulation microscope as a ferning pattern. Healthy fertile cervical mucus nourishes the sperm, protects them from the natural acidity of the vagina, and guides them toward the ovum.
Charting cervical mucus changes is known as the Ovulation Method. Since 1988, comparative studies of different methods of fertility charting, including the most common methods used to determine ovulation signs, cervical mucus charting alone proved to be the most accurate way to detect a woman’s most fertile time (World Health Organization – WHO). There is also a product known as Ovatel that is a portable hand-held microscope that you can use to see the ‘ferning’ pattern.
Cecilia M.M. Pyper, MD, Hon. Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford and Jane Knight, Fertility Nurse/Researcher & Director share for the Global Library of Women’s Medicine that “The WHO [World Health Organization] multicenter study reported that 94% of women could detect changes in cervical secretions indicating the start of the fertile time. Most women need to observe the secretions for approximately three cycles before recognizing the changes with confidence.”
Low to No Cervical Mucus
You may have noticed that you have vaginal dryness at times, but if this is becoming a regular occurrence, it may be a sign something is not functioning properly. If you have continual vaginal dryness and cannot detect cervical mucus at all, you may need to support your body in producing cervical mucus once again.
For women that have low, thick or no cervical fluid, it is harder for the sperm to reach the vagina and beyond for conception. In some cases there may not be a friendly environment for the sperm to sustain themselves. A woman may have developed antisperm antibodies, have some type of infection (yeast or bacterial infection, STD), or may eat a diet high in acidic foods which may cause Cervical Hostility.
Causes of Low Cervical Mucus
- Not enough water intake each day.
- Cervicitis or inflammation or infection of the cervix
- Poor circulation to the reproductive organs; sedentary lifestyle.
- Hormonal imbalance may cause changes to the entire menstrual cycle, which may inhibit production of fertile cervical mucus. Both high progesterone and low estrogen levels may cause poor cervical mucus quality. Conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the result of excess hormones from the ovary that can thicken or thin the mucus at odd times.
- Fertility medications containing hormones can alter fertile cervical mucus production.
- Cervical polyp or fibroid (very rare).
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) and cryosurgery to treat cervical dysplasia or HPV. These procedures can in some cases cause cervical scar tissue damage which may close off the ducts that secrete the cervical mucus. This is very rare.
Natural Options for Increasing Cervical Mucus
Drink a lot of water throughout the day. This may be all you need, drink more water. Cervical mucus is made up of 90% water (Harvard University reserach in the journal Fertility and Sterility), so if you are not hydrating your body your cervical mucus production may lessen. Regardless if you use any of the supplements, you must drink enough water for your body to be able to make cervical mucus. Drink at least 8 full glasses of clean filtered water a day.
2. Nutritional Supplementation
Be sure you are getting enough essential fatty acids each day in your diet. If you cannot get these through the foods you are eating, you may want to consider taking a complete omega supplement which contains omega 3, 6 and 9.
Essential fatty acids help to:
- Regulate hormones
- Reduces inflammation
- Increase the blood flow to the uterus
- Reduce sensitivity to the hormone prolactin, which can suppress ovulation
- Increases egg white cervical mucus, which is needed to help the sperm reach the egg
- Helps your cycle to become normalized
All of these key areas are vital to healthy, adequate cervical mucus production.
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) has been used by herbalists for hundreds of years to increase cervical mucus. Evening Primrose Oil is high in omega 6. This plant oil has been shown to increase cervical mucus production while also aiding in hormonal balance.
EPO contains gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid that the body converts to a hormone-like substance called prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), and French research published in Fertility and Sterility found that prostaglandins are a important part of the constitution of human cervical mucus. This finding may explain the reason EPO can support healthy cervical mucus production and cervical ripening in late pregnancy.
Borage seed oil is also high in omega-6 essential fatty acids. It has been shown to increase cervical mucus, balance hormones and is similar to evening primrose oil.
L-Arginine is an essential amino acid. Supplementation of L-Arginine helps to promote cervical mucus by supporting the production of nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels and helps to increase blood flow to the uterus, ovaries, and genitals. Proper circulation to the reproductive organs is vital to the production of cervical mucus.
Both Evening Primrose oil and L-arginine are found in the Fertilica™ Fertile CM Pack. Click here to learn more.
3. Herbs that support healthy cervical mucus production
Herbs that are demulcent and bitter are supportive of mucus gland production function. Some herbs are known to increase circulation to the genitals, while others support hormonal balance which may also be helpful.
- Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
- Licorice root(Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Marshmallow root(Althea officinalis)
- Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Making some of these herbs into a tea will also help to support daily hydration!
4. Use a sperm friendly lubricant prior to intercourse
Did you know that most lubricants can actually harm sperm? Luckily there are some natural options that have been shown not to harm sperm. These products supply lubrication when cervical mucus is lacking. Using a sperm friendly lubricant may help the sperm to reach their destination, which is past your cervix!
Emerita Natural Lubrication is a natural lubricant that is water-based. This product is free of petroleum, latex, and mineral oil, all of which have been shown to irritate vaginal tissue and harm sperm.
The production of healthy cervical mucus is vital for conception, as it supports the sperm in reaching the ova. Without fertile (thin, but stretchy) cervical mucus this cannot happen as easily. Cervical mucus is also a wonderful tool for detecting a woman’s peak fertile time. There are many natural options for supporting healthy cervical mucus production…
1. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of clean water each day!
2. Consider important nutritional supplements that support cervical mucus production including omega essential fatty acids, L-Arginine and Evening Primrose Oil.
3. Many herbs can support the health of our mucus glands, including how they function. Many of those same herbs also support hormonal balance, which is necessary for appropriate cervical fluid changes.
4. In the meantime, while you are working on the other 3 steps, consider using a natural lubricant to support the sperm in reaching the ova!
Too learn more about related subjects covered in this article, please visit the following links:
- Natural Family Planning; A guide to provision of services. (1988). World Health Organization Geneva. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/39322/9241542411-eng.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
- Pyper, C.M.M. and Knight, J. (October 2008). Fertility Awareness Methods of Family Planning for Achieving or Avoiding Pregnancy. Glob. libr. women’s med., (ISSN: 1756-2228) 2008; DOI 10.3843/GLOWM.10384. Retrieved from https://www.glowm.com/section_view/heading/Fertility%20Awareness%20Methods%20of%20Family%20Planning%20for%20Achieving%20or%20Avoiding%20Pregnancy/item/383#r36
- ODEBLAD, E. (1968). THE FUNCTIONAL STRUCTURE OF HUMAN CERVICAL MUCUS. Acta Obstetricia Et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 47(S1). doi.org/10.3109/00016346809156845Retrieved from: https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.3109/00016346809156845
- Katz, D. F., Mills, R. N., & Pritchett, T. R. (1978). The movement of human spermatozoa in cervical mucus. Reproduction, 53(2), 259-265. doi:10.1530/jrf.0.0530259 Retrieved from: https://rep.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/rep/53/2/jrf_53_2_013.xml
- Gorodeski, G. I. (2000). NO increases permeability of cultured human cervical epithelia by cGMP-mediated increase in G-actin. American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology, 278(5). doi:10.1152/ajpcell.2000.278.5.c942 Retrieved from:https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpcell.2000.278.5.C942
- Fertility Friend: Advanced Ovulation Calendar & Fertility Tracker Track, Analyze, Understand & Learn – Charting Lesson 2. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://fertilityfriend.com/courses/lessons/1/Charting-Essentials.html
- Fertility Friend: Lesson 5 – All about Cervical Fluid (n.d.). Retrieved from https://fertilityfriend.com/courses/lessons/1/All-about-Cervical-Fluid.html
- KOPITO, L.E., KOSASKY, H.J., STURGIS, S.H., LIEBERMAN, B.L., SHWACHMAN, H. (July 1973). WATER AND ELECTROLYTES IN HUMAN CERVICAL MUCUS. FERTILITY AND STERILITY. Vol. 24, No.7. Retrieved from https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(16)39788-6/pdf
- Charbonnel, B., Kremer, M, Gerozissis, K. And Dray F. (July 1982). Human cervical mucus contains large amounts of prostaglandins. FERTILITY AND STERILITY. Vol. 38, No.1. Retrieved from https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(16)46406-X/pdf
- Northrup, Christiane, M.D. (2010) Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. New York, NY: Bantam Books
- Romm, A., Clare, B. (2010). Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health St. Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.