Cervical mucus is key to conception. Fertile cervical mucus -- sometimes referred to as egg white cervical mucus -- is need to help sperm survive and swim from the cervix into the uterus and eventually the fallopian tubes. Some birth control methods dry-up cervical mucus to further prevent pregnancy.
So what happens if you're trying to get pregnant but don't seem to have any?
There are a number of potential causes of little or no fertile cervical mucus. Some are preventable, others may be a symptom of infertility.
Medication Side Effects
Some medications can dry up or decrease the quality of your cervical mucus. Those drugs may include:
- Anti-histamines or allergy medications
- Cough suppressants
- Cold and sinus medications, especially if they include a cough suppressant or anti-histamines
- Some sleep aids
- Some anti-depressants and epilepsy drugs
If you're taking any of the above medications, and you suspect they are preventing you from having fertile quality cervical mucus, talk to your doctor about your options for switching medications. If that's not possible, ask about potential ways to get around the medication's side effects.
Note: Never discontinue or change the dosage of a medication without first consulting with your doctor.
Clomid and Cervical Mucus
You may have noticed the fertility drug Clomid on the above list. It's ironic that a drug meant to help you get pregnant may at the same time lead to problems with getting the sperm to the right place for pregnancy!
Not every woman who takes Clomid will experience problems with low quality cervical mucus, and it's more common to have this problem when Clomid is taken at higher dosages.
If you do notice vaginal dryness or a lack of fertile cervical mucus when taking Clomid, you should mention this to your doctor.
Your doctor may prescribe an estrogen medication to help counteract the side effect, or if pregnancy doesn't occur after a few cycles, your doctor may want to try a different fertility drug or use IUI treatment in combination with Clomid or another drug.
As you get older, you may have fewer days of cervical mucus. You already know that your fertility decreases as you age, and changes in the quality and quantity of cervical mucus is one way your fertility is affected.
In your 20s, you may have had up to five days of quality cervical mucus, but in your 30s and 40s, that may slowly decrease to just one or two days. Or the cervical mucus remain at the more watery stage and may never become like raw egg whites.
While it's true that the more days of high quality cervical mucus you have, the better your chances will be of getting pregnant, it's still possible to get pregnant when you have just one or two days of fertile cervical mucus.
- 7 Things You Need to Know About Getting Pregnant after 35
- When Is the Right Time to Have Children? Now, Later, or Never?
Douching and Cervical Mucus
Vaginal douching can wash away the valuable cervical mucus you need to get pregnant. Douching can also wash away good bacteria, leading to an increased risk of vaginal infection.
If you're trying to get pregnant, it's best to skip vaginal douching or products meant as "feminine deodorants." Even if you're not trying to get pregnant, it's best to skip them.
If you're using them because of an unpleasant vaginal odor, or you're trying to wash away unusual vaginal secretions, you may be unintentionally masking a symptom of a vaginal infection. In this case, be sure to see your doctor for a check-up.
The hormone estrogen is responsible for the increase in cervical mucus that precedes ovulation. If you're underweight, if you exercise excessively, or if you're a professional athlete, your levels of estrogen may be low.
This may not only lead to less fertile cervical mucus, but also to problems with ovulation.
Gaining weight or cutting back on your exercise routine may help.
Infection or Previous Surgery of the Cervix
Another potential reason for lacking fertile cervical mucus is a cervical infection, like one caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
STDs can also lead to other fertility problems, including infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes, so it's very important this is diagnosed and treated right away.
Also, previous injury or surgery on the cervix can lead to a problem with producing cervical mucus.
If you've ever had a cervical conization, or cervical cone biopsy, you may not produce as much cervical mucus as before.
Hormonal Imbalance or Anovulation
A hormonal imbalance can also lead to a lack of cervical mucus. Also, if you're not ovulating, you may not get fertile cervical mucus.
It's also possible to have an excess amount of fertile cervical mucus and not be ovulating, depending on what's causing the problems with ovulation.
As always, speak to your doctor about any concerns.
Treating a Lack of Cervical Mucus
Treatment depends on what's causing the lack of fertile cervical mucus. It may be a simple matter of switching or discontinuing a medication that is causing the problem.
If you have a vaginal or cervical infection, treating the infection may help. If it's a hormonal imbalance, treating the imbalance or fertility treatments may be what's needed.
In some cases, your doctor may suggest taking a cough expectorant (but not a cough suppressant) with the active ingredient guaifenesin. Just as guaifenesin helps thin the secretions in your lungs when you have a cough, it also may help thin or increase vaginal and cervical secretions. Speak to your doctor before trying this.
Another possibility is treatment with the estrogen supplements Estrace or Premarin. This usually also requires the combined use of fertility drugs to help stimulate ovulation.
IUI treatment is another possible option for treatment. IUI treatment involves taking specially washed sperm and transferring it past the cervix directly into the uterus. It bypasses the need for fertile cervical mucus.
More on causes of infertility:
- We Can't Get Pregnant. Now What?
- All About Cervical Mucus
- Signs of Ovulation
- Anovulation and Irregular Ovulation
- PCOS Symptoms and Treatment
- Endometriosis Symptoms and Treatment
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
- Male Infertility Symptoms and Treatment
- Varicoceles: Common Cause of Male Infertility
- Blocked Fallopian Tubes: Symptoms and Treatments
- Symptoms and Risk Factors of Infertility
- Take a Fertility Quiz
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Speroff, Leon; Fritz, Marc A. (2005) Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology & Infertility, 7th Edition. United States of America: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Weschler, T. (2002). Taking Charge of Your Fertility (Revised Edition) . United States of America: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.