What Can Affect Your Cervical Mucus? Even People Who Aren’t Trying To Get Pregnant Should Know What’s Up With It

Share

The importance of cervical mucus to getting pregnant — or not getting pregnant, depending on your preference — is, as we're increasingly discovering, pretty important. Tracking the viscosity and "feel" of your mucus as it changes throughout your cycle is a scientifically approved way to track your fertility and ovulation, as your more fertile days will involve a thinner, more watery secretion and your less fertile ones sticky, opaque ones. Sperm are more capable of movement through the thin mucus, so they're a signal that the body is prepared and ready for impregnation. And this has led people to wonder what can affect their cervical mucus, to make it better (or worse) for conceiving — but the options they're being offered often have little or no science behind them at all.

Planned Parenthood notes that many potential elements can have a problematic influence on the composition of cervical mucus, from breastfeeding to douching (please don't do that), to hormonal birth control and STDs. If you're feeling dryness or are worried about cervical mucus levels in general, it's a good idea to go to the GP or gynecologist rather than attempting to treat it yourself — particularly because, as we'll see, many of the options recommended on forums and by fertility sites aren't exactly proven to be helpful.

Hydration May Help

Ameen Fahmy/Unsplash

Of all the possible methods offered to help make cervical mucus thinner and more abundant (and therefore a good swimming pool for sperm), the straightforward advice "drink more water" is probably the most logical and most possibly effective, though there's no straightforward evidence that it works. The more hydrated your mucus, the more likely you are to get pregnant; on your most fertile days, your mucus can be up to 96 percent water, and that's been directly connected with a higher probability of pregnancy in experiments. So if you want to increase your fertile chances, it makes sense to drink water regularly so you don't get dehydrated. (This is good advice in general, also.)

Sorry, Cold Medication Won't Affect It

It's a common myth found on pregnancy message boards and in natural fertility articles: cold medications might be a bad idea for mucus because of their tendency to "dry up" mucus production in the body, which might therefore extend to the cervical membranes and create less mucus in general. However, mucus shows up in many parts of the body, from the nasal passages to the gastrointestinal tract and the eyes, and their interactions with different kinds of medications designed to dry mucosal membranes are complex. You can't put all mucus into the one basket.

All evidence that antihistamines and other nasal mucus medications might interfere with cervical mucus viscosity is also anecdotal. Dr. Janet Choi, MD, who is currently a specialist at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, told The Bump that “I haven’t found any study that says this will really interfere with conception. I don’t think they’ll severely affect your cervical mucus — so if a patient is really suffering, I say go ahead and take what will make you feel better.”

Evening Primrose Oil May Be A Bad Idea

Photomix/Pexels

The theory behind taking oral doses of evening primrose oil for more slippery cervical mucus involves fatty acids. Primrose oil, it's claimed, contains high levels of gamma linolenic acid, which is meant to help the body's production of prostaglandins and (somehow) help make mucus more friendly to sperm. However, there are a few things wrong with this idea. For one, while prostaglandins are present in cervical mucus, scientists don't know what they're for; they might be there to make sperm swim better, but we're not sure. If there's a mechanism that involves oil, prostaglandins and cervical mucus, nobody's highlighted it yet.

For another, evening primrose oil remains untested for this sort of experimentation. It's been tested for a variety of health conditions, from eczema to PMS, and nobody has found any real medical benefit to its usage yet. It's still largely a folk remedy, and doctors advise that people should only take it for a short period of time as it has potentially nasty side effects if taken long-term.

L-Arginine Might Prove To Be Interesting

L-arginine is an animo acid that has been proven to have a valuable role in many aspects of human functioning, including the preservation of mucus levels. Its most pressing function for women concerned with their cervical mucus is the fact that it converts in the body into nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels, increases circulation, and also has a relationship with mucus. We know, for instance, that men who stress seem to have lower L-arginine levels and that has a direct impact on the motility of their sperm, while a study in 2002 found that administering L-arginine to rats helped to protect them from gastric ulcers by preserving their gastrointestinal mucus.

But it gets more interesting from there. A small study in 2005 found that a substance involving nitric oxide, when administered under the tongue to women who were ovulating, produced a "marked increase" in cervical secretion. In other words, getting a dose of nitric oxide itself made cervical mucus production bump up. A lot more research needs to be done on the tie between taking L-arginine orally and any increase in cervical mucus, but for the moment this one shows quite a lot of promise.