You probably know that your cervical mucus, the discharge that comes out of your vagina actually changes with your cycle. You’ve noticed that, at times, it is thick and white or yellow, while at other times, it is clear and stringy, even stretchy. It comes from cells in the cervix, increases when you are sexually aroused and sometimes doesn’t seem to be present much at all.
Cervical Mucus Purpose and Changes
Your cervical mucus naturally reflects the hormonal changes in your cycle. Estrogen increases the amount of cervical mucus you have and when you ovulate, the cervix changes to a clear and stringy substance that stretches between your thumb and forefinger. This is the “fertile” cervical mucus you want to see during ovulation when you are trying to conceive.
If you’re not seeing these changes in, there could be a problem with your fertility. In the same way, if you have unexplained infertility, the problem might be that your cervical mucus isn’t helping you at all and might actually be hurting the fertilization process. You can have hostile cervical mucus even when it looks normal.
You see, while sperm cells do move by themselves, they don’t do all the work involved in getting the sperm to the egg. It takes the right properties in the mucus to help the sperm cells swim as effortlessly as possible into the cervix and up inside the uterus so they can fertilize the egg in the fallopian tubes.
In certain situations, your cervical mucus can actively fight off the sperm cells that swim within it. In less drastic circumstances, it won’t fight off the sperm but it won’t help the sperm either. After a few minutes, just a small fraction of the sperm entering the vagina will still be motile and, if the mucus is scant or has the wrong pH (acidity), even fewer sperm stand a chance in making the journey to the egg.
What is Hostile Cervical Mucus and Why does it Happen?
If the cervical mucus is “hostile” for any reason, the process above just doesn’t happen. Possible causes of having hostile cervical mucus include the following:
- Infection—if you have a vaginal or cervical infection, the environment might be such that sperm cells do not survive or are damaged as they enter the vaginal area. Yeast infections, other fungal infections, and bacterial infections can all be a problem. Infection cells fighting your infection can have a bad influence on passing sperm.
- pH Imbalance—in an acidic environment, sperm cells do not move and are rendered ineffective. The best environment for sperm cells in the vagina is actually somewhat alkaline. Eating a healthy plant-based diet that is otherwise low in sugar, dairy products, meat, sodas, and processed foods can help to alkalinize your body fluids. Infections can also contribute to pH imbalances inside the vagina and cervix. Learn more: Is a Vaginal pH Problem Affecting Your Fertility?
- Anti-sperm antibodies—yes, you can make antibodies directed at sperm cells and this will mark near certain death for them. No one knows all the causes of anti-sperm antibodies but, if you have them, your body will fight off sperm cells as though they are foreign invaders. Men can have anti-sperm antibodies to their own sperm, too.
- Medication side effects—certain medications will decrease the quality of your cervical mucus. Things like antihistamines and cold medicines that dry up respiratory mucus will also dry up all mucus. Clomid (yes, it’s a fertility drug) can also dry it up, offsetting its effectiveness in helping you ovulate. Sleep aids, epilepsy drugs, and some types of antidepressants have a drying effect as well.
- Hormone imbalances—there are many different hormone problems that can affect your cervical mucus by altering your hormone levels. This includes thyroid problems, polycystic ovarian syndrome, hyperprolactinemia, and ovarian insufficiency. Only your doctor can evaluate these disorders.
- Scant or thick cervical mucus—if your mucus is too thick, the sperm will not be able to effectively swim within the vaginal milieu. In the same way, if there isn’t enough cervical mucus, there will not be enough fluid for the proper “swimming” of your partner’s sperm cells. Hormonal imbalances can lead to insufficient mucus volume.
Lesser common causes can be:
- Vaginal douching—this is never a good idea when you’re trying to conceive. First, it will cause pH imbalances in the vagina that creates a hostile environment and second, it can lead to infections by washing away your healthy vaginal bacteria.
- Previous cervical surgery—if you’ve had a cervical cone biopsy or cervical conization, you will be less likely to have the all-important mucus-producing cells in your cervix and you won’t have enough to help sperm travel through the area.
- Being underweight—excessive exercise or being underweight will affect your estrogen levels. Remember, this is the hormone that makes your cervical mucus plentiful. You may have ovulation problems or scant mucus that will create a hostile cervical environment.
What You Can Do about Hostile Cervical Mucus
The treatment of hostile cervical mucus largely depends on what is causing the problem.
- If you have an active infection, get it treated by healthcare provider. You may need an antifungal drug or an antibiotic. Your herbalist may suggest specific herbs.
- Quit smoking.
- Drink plenty of fluids so you stay hydrated, too.
- Your doctor may prescribe low-dose estrogen for a brief period of time to offset a hormone imbalance.
- Eat a whole food Fertility Diet that is free of processed foods, dairy products, and meat if possible. Your diet definitely can improve the pH of your cervical mucus; eat foods that are alkalinizing, such as plant-based fruits and vegetables.
- Stop any medication that might be drying.
- Lower doses of Clomid (clomiphene citrate) may be enough to help improve the cervical mucus. Some suggest taking guaifenesin, which is a mucolytic agent taken orally, although there have been no studies to prove this is successful in thinning cervical mucus the same way it thins respiratory mucus when you have a cough.
- If you feel you need it, use a fertility-friendly lubricant during sex. You don’t want anything that isn’t water-based and you don’t want anything that is too acidic. Emerita’s Natural Lubricant is a fertility-friendly lubricant that can be used for infertile couples who need extra lubrication.
- Some say that Evening Primrose Oil (from Oenothera biennis seeds) taken internally will improve the quality of your cervical mucus but, like many herbal remedies, there aren’t many studies that have been done to show its effectiveness in helping improve hostile cervical mucus. Learn more: The Best Herbal Remedies to Increase Cervical Mucus Production
- If you have anti-sperm antibodies, take the time to learn about Systemic Enzyme Therapy and work closely with your doctor. You may be a candidate instead for IVF, which allows embryos instead of sperm to enter the uterus artificially after conception. This bypasses the entire immune-related issue of having these types of antibodies.
Learn the cause of why you have hostile cervical mucus in order to best address healing and a return to balance. There may be a medical or natural approach, and some may choose to use both. Having support from a healthcare provider whether medical or natural will help you avoid any setbacks as you keep moving forward on your fertility journey.
- Rodriguez, H. (Dec 6th, 2018). Cervical Hostility and Regaining Fertility to Get Pregnant. Retrieved from https://natural-fertility-info.com/causes-female-infertility.html
- Gurevich, R. (March 21, 2019). Why Don’t I Have Any Cervical Mucus? Retrieved from: https://www.verywellfamily.com/why-dont-i-have-any-cervical-mucus-1959935
- How to Identify and Improve Fertile Cervical Mucus. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.firstresponse.com/en/articles-listings/how-to-identify-and-improve-fertile-cervical-mucus