At only about 4 cm long, the functioning of the cervix is critical for fertility and pregnancy. The cervix is located at the lowest point of the uterus, attached to the vagina. The cervix acts as a passageway to the uterus and is known for its production of cervical mucus which helps sperm travel safely to the egg during a woman’s fertile window.
Sperm must travel from the vagina, through the opening of the cervix, through the cervical canal, then to the uterus and fallopian tubes for conception. At the end of pregnancy, the cervix then must dilate to an astounding 10 cm to allow for a vaginal delivery. Wow! That’s a lot of work for one very small part of the body!
Issues that Impact Cervical Health
The cervix, like the rest of the reproductive system, can face challenges that affect fertility and pregnancy. This article covers the most common cervical health concerns and offers suggestions on natural and medical approaches that can help promote a healthy cervix.
1. Let’s talk about cervical Incompetence.
If you’ve faced a cervical incompetence diagnosis, you’re understandably feeling concerned or may have had a recent loss. We’re sorry you’re going through this! Please know that having this challenge is not your fault. Cervical incompetence is not related to diet or lifestyle.
Unfortunately, cervical incompetence can raise your risk of miscarriage and pregnancy loss. In cervical incompetence, the cervix is weakened, may shorten or dilate early, potentially causing premature labor.
Many women reach out to us seeking natural methods to help correct this challenge. However, I must stress, natural therapies like herbs are much less effective for anatomical fertility concerns than they are for hormone balance problems, or even fibroids and endometriosis.
2. Demystifying the cervical stitch (cerclage).
If you have a history of cervical incompetence, consider learning about natural therapies like biofeedback, or herbs like Squaw vine, aka Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) and Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa) to help tighten tissues as part of preparation for conception. However, using medical interventions like cervical cerclage (placing a stitch to help the cervix stay closed) is the best choice to address cervical incompetence and carry a pregnancy to term. This is perfectly ok!
Having a cervical cerclage or transabdominal cerclage (for the most serious cases) increases your chances for a healthy pregnancy and full-term delivery. Other research finds using progesterone vaginal suppositories, as directed by your healthcare provider or midwife, can also help women with cervical incompetence during singleton pregnancies.
Whatever your choice of treatments, work closely with your doctor and midwife. Networking with other women who have cervical incompetence is a good avenue for support, too.
3. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are another common problem that affects cervical health.
- HPV: It’s estimated that about 80% of sexually active women experience an HPV (human papilloma virus) infection in their lives. Unfortunately, some strains of HPV can lead to cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer, which is bad news for health and future pregnancy. If you’re at risk, screening through an annual pap smear is highly recommended.
If you have HPV, B vitamins can provide natural support. Some women see improvements by taking 1000mcg of both folic acid and vitamin B12 daily. Having a daily green juice or drink like Fertiligreens can give the immune system a boost while you address the infection. Whatever your choice of therapies, make sure to have follow-up testing to see if the infection has cleared or if you require more treatment. Cervical dysplasia and precancerous cell changes are highly treatable when caught and addressed early.
Pros and cons of LEEP surgery: For stubborn cases of HPV and cervical dysplasia, LEEP surgery (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) may be recommended to prevent abnormal cells from turning into cervical cancer. In a LEEP procedure, a small electrical loop is used to remove the abnormal cells from your cervix. You will be given a numbing agent to prevent pain, and the procedure can be completed in about 10 minutes.
While many women want to avoid LEEP, it may be necessary in some cases to help protect against cancer development and losing the cervix altogether. LEEP is not likely to harm fertility, although in rare cases, it can lead to complications like cervical incompetence or cervical stenosis (narrowing of the cervix). Preparing your body with a nutrient-dense Fertility Diet and supportive supplements like systemic enzymes is a good choice if your doctor recommends LEEP.
- Other STIs: Other STIs like herpes 2, chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis lead to cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix), and also require medical treatment to resolve. Once treated, these STIs don’t typically lead to fertility or pregnancy health concerns.
Antimicrobial herbs like Olive leaf extract (Olea europaea), Oregano oil (Origanum vulgare) or Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) can be considered after conventional medical treatment. For herpes, many natural healers find herbs like Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia), L-lysine and red marine algae can strengthen the immune system, help prevent outbreaks or reduce the duration of outbreaks.
4. Understanding Cervical Ectropion. Cervical ectropion occurs when the canal of the cervix (endocervix) turns outward. This causes the cells that are normally inside the cervix to be exposed to the acidic pH of the vagina. This can lead to sensitivity, watery discharge or spotting after intercourse or during late pregnancy.
While it’s important to evaluate the cervix if you suspect cervical ectropion, it’s not the same thing as cancer. Cervical ectropion is not thought to harm fertility and may require no medical treatment. While once suspected to be the result of infection or trauma, researchers now believe cervical ectropion is fairly common, may be related to hormone fluctuations or even present from birth.
Cervical health monitoring is important!
Working with your doctor and receiving regular screenings is vital for cervical health, especially if you’re planning to conceive. Ask questions if you’re unsure about a test result or recommended procedure. Consider natural therapies for nutritional and immune support in your challenge areas. For cervical health concerns, using a combination of natural and medical therapies can be the best option for your ongoing health and fertility.
The Role of the Cervix in Achieving and Maintaining Pregnancy
How Sexually Transmitted Infections Impact Fertility, Pregnancy & A Baby’s Health
How to Preserve Fertility & Cervical Health with HPV
Increase Cervical Mucous to Get Pregnant
- Anatomy and Physiology of the Cervix. (2018). Retrieved from: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/cervical/cervical-cancer/the-cervix/?region=on
- Conde-Agudelo, A. et al. (2013, Jan.). Vaginal progesterone vs cervical cerclage for the prevention of preterm birth in women with a sonographic short cervix, previous preterm birth, and singleton gestation: a systematic review and indirect comparison meta analysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2013 Jan; 208(1): 42.e1–42.e18. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3529767/
- What’s LEEP? (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/cancer/cervical-cancer/whats-leep
- Shur, M. (2018, March). Overview of Cervical Ectropion. Retrieved from: https://www.verywell.com/what-is-the-treatment-for-cervical-erosion-3522327