Things that affect cervical mucus
Cervical mucus promotes the penetration and preservation of sperm in the female body before the egg is fertilized. Many factors influence mucus quantity and quality:
- Taking estrogens (which are prescribed, for example, in the case of “thin” endometrium) increases the amount of secretions and has a beneficial effect on conception.
- Oral contraceptives, on the contrary, reduce the amount of mucus.
- STDs, taking antibiotics, and using local medications (suppositories, antiseptic douches) during treatment significantly change the quality of mucus.
- In the case of certain endocrine disorders accompanied by anovulation (for example, PCOS), the production of cervical mucus is not cyclic but continuous due to a high level of estrogen.
- In the case of a high body mass index, many estrogens are produced due to excess fat, which contributes to constant abundant secretions. At the same time, the cervix is permanently open, which increases the risk of infection getting into the tubes.
- Lubricants can also distort the characteristics of mucus.
Does cervical mucus depend on how much water you drink?
Vaginal discharge (cervical mucus) is 90% water. It’s also why it leaves stains on your underwear.
The nature of cervical mucus is defined by your estrogen levels, which vary depending on the menstrual cycle phases. The more estrogen, the more fertile the mucus (watery, slippery, and similar to egg white).
The texture of the vaginal discharge depends on many factors, including the amount of water you drink. The more liquid your body receives, the better the mucus quality. During ovulation, it will be as slippery and elastic as possible, thus contributing to sperm movement and survival. Drinking little water causes a decrease in the production of cervical mucus and lessens its quality, which can adversely affect your ability to conceive.
In order to maintain a healthy water balance, you should drink about 8 glasses of clean water daily.
How to improve the cervical mucus quantity and quality?
The conception process is influenced by many factors, including the cervical mucus characteristics.
The quality and amount of the mucus, and more specifically, its fertility, depend on your hormone profile (estrogen levels). The cervical mucus characteristics (abundance, viscosity, etc.) can be adversely affected by stress, illness, certain medications, body dehydration, etc. For example, you can have sticky and thick vaginal mucus even during ovulation, which will disrupt the movement of sperm towards the egg.
You can improve the cervical mucus quality by increasing your daily water intake (up to at least 8 glasses), adding more fruit and vegetables into your diet. Some experts recommend taking medications that contain guaifenesin.
If experiencing conception difficulties, it is recommended that you consult a doctor.
How can cervical mucus help determine the menstrual cycle phases?
Depending on the menstrual cycle phase, the vaginal discharge is subject to change in terms of amount, texture, and color.
Thus, menstruation is typically followed by the “dry days,” when little discharge is produced and it is barely visible on your underwear.
Then, the mucus gets sticky (pearly, white, or yellowish in color) and can’t be stretched between the fingers.
As ovulation approaches, the amount of discharge increases. During ovulation, it gets watery and transparent and resembles an egg white. Such mucus texture facilitates the entry of sperm into the cervix. After ovulation, the amount of discharge decreases, it gets sticky again, and doesn’t stretch well.
The changes in cervical mucus are associated with changes in hormone levels and are natural for the body. For some women, the changes may not be as obvious as described. In this case, carefully monitoring the discharge for a few months can help.
Why is it easier for sperm to penetrate the cervical mucus mid-cycle?
Throughout the entire menstrual cycle, the cervix produces cervical mucus. Its function is to prevent pathogenic microorganisms from entering the uterus and promote the passage of sperm into it during fertile days.
The mucus structure resembles that of a gel with macromolecules forming an elastic structure filled with a liquid medium. The distance between the macromolecules is so small that it doesn’t let through microbes, and often sperm.
However, the ratio of the solid and liquid media is not constant. Approximately mid-cycle (just before ovulation), the water content increases and the distance between the molecules expands accordingly. The discharge becomes transparent and viscous, making it easier for sperm to enter the uterus, which increases the chances of conception.
The PCT test: detecting antisperm antibodies in cervical mucus
Sperm is a complex protein structure. In some cases, when semen enters the vagina, the female body may produce antisperm antibodies (ASA). They are detected in cervical mucus and blood serum, making sperm clump together and reducing their active motility until they are completely immobilized.
The interaction between sperm and cervical mucus can be observed via the postcoital test. Two to six hours after sexual intercourse, a sample of the cervical mucus is collected by the gynecologist, who then assesses sperm motility under the microscope. Normally, the sperm should remain motile within this timeframe. If the sperm clump together or are immobilized, this may indicate cervical factor infertility.
The main method for treating this type of infertility is assisted reproductive technology (intrauterine insemination or IVF).
What is the role of cervical mucus for fertility?
Due to the influence of the sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone), special mucus is secreted by the cervix. Its quantity and quality vary depending on the phase of the cycle.
In the follicular phase (from the beginning of menstruation until ovulation), the level of estrogen rises, resulting in a heavier amount of mucus. It’s liquid and transparent, like egg white.
The maximum amount of secretions is produced during the preovulatory period and ovulation. This helps sperm penetrate the cervix and fallopian tubes, and to be stored there in active form for up to 3−5 days, waiting for the egg to fertilize.
Cervical mucus after ovulation is scarcer and thicker due to the influence of progesterone. The cervix then closes, which prevents the uterus and tubes from getting infected, creating the optimal conditions for implantation.