Do You Have Hostile Cervical Mucus?



First of all, what is with all these misogynist reproductive terms: hostile mucus? Blighted ovum? Incompetent cervix? Irritable uterus? The fact that these all belong to a woman’s body is not a coincidence; these names were given by old men probably more than 100 years ago. It drives me nuts when I hear a woman say, “I have an incompetent cervix.” Ugh! Your cervix functions differently than what is usually expected, but it is by no means incompetent.

So, hostile mucus is not hostile (that implies intelligent forethought—and if there is one thing mucus isn’t, it’s intelligent)—it’s just too thick. The job of cervical mucus is to escort the sperm safely into the cervix, where it can fertilize the egg. Ideally, the mucus would be the consistency of raw egg white.

Sometimes, though, good mucus goes bad (not really bad; just not as good as it could be!). It gets too thick, and it hurts the sperm instead of helping it along (just don’t think of all those poor little sperm, drowning by the billions!). Again, not hostile (crazy old men being afraid of the female body!), just not as helpful as you would like it to be.

So, why does this happen, and what can be done about it?

First culprit might be a lack of hydration, or it may be your body’s reaction to milk products. Therefore, if you think it could be either of those drink WAY more water and drink WAY less milk!

Other causes may be less obvious or easy to figure out. Some antihistamines may have this effect. So your best bet may be to just bring out your neti pot during your ovulation, and leave the allergy meds until after (although, really, you should probably get used to using your neti pot anyway, as some antihistamines may not be safe during pregnancy). Ironically, the fertility drug Clomid may also thicken the cervical mucus.

Around your time of ovulation, you should be able to feel your mucus to tell if it is thin enough. If it feels thicker than the raw egg white consistency, there are some things you can do in addition to the above. A crazily effective means of thinning your mucus is to take Robitussin (!), as its job is to thin all mucus in your body. A more “natural” option is to take Evening Primrose Oil (then save the rest of it to soften your cervix as you reach the end of your pregnancy).

So, in conclusion, cervical mucus is a benign entity, with no hostile feelings toward any person or sperm. Maintaining overall good health, staying hydrated, and fine-tuning some other stuff will help it do its job better.

Natural Fertility Clues That Can Lead to Pregnancy



rp_4482887906_5aa01a0c65.jpg

So you’re dreaming of tiny overalls, pint-sized Mary Jane shoes, and a tiny tush that smells like talcum powder? Waiting to see those two lines that show you’ll be transitioning from a couple to a family? This is an exciting time in your life, so you want to be able to enjoy it as much as possible! Savor all the anxiety, nervousness, joy, and fear that you are experiencing as a would-be first-time-parent.

You may be one of those people who want to do everything they can to ensure success. If so, you’ll want to get to know your body’s fertility signs so that you can tell when’s the best time to get busy! It can wear on a relationship to try to have sex every day or every other day, so you may want to target your “getting it on” to the times most likely to result in pregnancy.

There are a few different ways you can read your body to get to know your cycle; we will go through a quick run-down of all the natural methods you can use to predict your fertility days!

Calendar Method/Rhythm Method

The first method is called the calendar method, or the rhythm method. It is one of the oldest and most common fertility predictors, although it is not terribly accurate. It gives you a broad range of days in which you could be fertile. Although it is not necessarily the most accurate, it takes the least work.

So here’s how: just record when your period starts each month for several months (also record when your period ends, if you want, although it is not necessary). The first day of your period is the first day of your cycle. Your cycles will likely all be slightly different lengths. Take the length of your shortest cycle and subtract 18 (so if your shortest cycle is 28 days, your number is 10). Then take the number of your longest cycle and subtract 11 (so if your longest cycle is 34 days, subtract 11 to get 23). So your “fertile days” in your cycle are days 10 through 23. “Fertile days” is in quotation marks because you are not fertile every day of those 13 days (you are usually only fertile for 2 days in a cycle), but your actual fertile days fall within those 13 days! So if you are using this method to get pregnant, you will want to get busy every day or every other day for those days in your cycle.

Cervical Mucus Method

This method is more accurate, but is slightly more work (and has a higher chance that you’ll forget to do it!). Cervical mucus is the “wetness” in the vagina that allows sex to be comfortable and pleasurable for women. Mucus changes throughout the cycle due to hormones, and you can examine your cervical mucus to determine when your time to conceive is!

When your egg matures and is released, your body experiences a surge of progesterone in order to develop the uterine lining so that the fertilized egg can implant itself into the uterine lining. Those hormones are the ones that change the mucus into a sticky, light consistency with plentiful volume. That is so that the mucus can transport the sperm into the cervix in order to fertilize the egg.

Either you can use this method as a guide of whether or not you are fertile on any given day, or you can use it to track your cycles, as in the rhythm method above. First thing in the morning as you’re sitting on the toilet, take a moment and examine your cervical mucus. Either you can write it down on your calendar or you can simply make a mental note of its consistency and whether today seems like a fertile day or not.

Basal Body Temperature

This method is approximately as effective as the cervical mucus method, and it does require a fair amount of “morning rememberingness!” In this method, you need to measure your temperature first thing when you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed or do any activity at all.

What happens in your body is that the same surge of progesterone that kicks your mucus into “high gear” also causes a slight rise in your body temperature.  The kicker is that basically the only movement your body can make is to grab the thermometer, as any extra movement will raise your temp and give an unclear reading. So it has to be first thing in the morning, or nothing (hence “morning rememberingness”).

So you take your temp every morning and write down your number on your calendar. You have to be pretty precise, since your temp will only change from around ½ degree to a full degree Fahrenheit. Your body temp increase will show you when your egg has been released and your uterus is growing a thick lining. Track this cycle for several months, so that you’ll be able to predict when your temp increase will occur. You will want to start having sex a couple of days before you predict your BBT will increase, so this really works best when you have been tracking for a while and are very confident.

Cervical Position

This one is likely the most challenging natural fertility method, and requires a great deal of knowledge of your body. Your cervix is the rounded, somewhat spongy piece at the end of your vagina. It changes position throughout your cycle, so if you can learn to read these positions, you can get a sense of where you are in your cycle.

When you’re sitting on the toilet, insert your middle finger into your vagina and feel your cervix at different times throughout your cycle. It is lower during non-fertile times, and sits higher when you are fertile. This is one you’ll have to play around with to figure out how to read your body’s cues.

It’s always best to understand your body and to take charge of your fertility. Good luck!

Do Hormones Play a Role in Fertility?



iStock_000004339844Small

 

Does the Pope play a role in Catholicism? Of course they do!

For a woman, hormones are almost the entire picture when it comes to fertility. We are complicated creatures, you and I, and our moods, weight, and all sorts of other things are continuously being affected by our hormone cycles.

Men have hormones too. Testosterone is the main male hormone, although women have some testosterone too, and it is necessary for many aspects of physical well-being. Testosterone controls sex drive, helps maintain fat and muscle balance in the body, and a whole host of other things. Men’s reproductive hormones are the same hormones that produce women’s eggs: follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone from the pituitary. Follicle-stimulating hormone produces sperm and luteinizing hormone produces the testosterone needed for the sex drive to get the sperm to meet the egg!

Women have testosterone as well, and it serves a similar purpose, but we just have much less of it. Instead, our main steroidal hormone is estrogen (very similar to testosterone in cellular makeup). It is our main sex hormone and is involved in most aspects of reproduction.

For women, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) helps produce the egg in the ovaries, just as FSH helps develop sperm in the testes for men. LH stimulates the production of estrogen, which stimulates the release of the egg from the ovary. The hormones function in similar ways in men and women, but there is a big difference. Women’s and men’s cycles of FSH and LH work very differently. There are daily cycles and seasonal cycles of testosterone level variances in men, but in general the cycles are not as pronounced as in women (both the women and the men say, “No kidding!” in response to this!). There has been a somewhat controversial notion that men have monthly hormone cycles as well as women, but there is a far from enough evidence to prove that this is the case. Even if it were proven, it is still nowhere near as strong a cycle as for women.

There are many things that can help both men and women maintain hormone health and ideal reproductive health. For both sexes, maintaining a healthy weight helps hormone levels stay balanced. Exercising regularly helps for similar reasons. Thyroid health can be a factor in reproductive hormone health, so if a couple has been trying to conceive for several months to a year, it can be helpful to get a full hormonal workup to make sure all levels are within normal range. One final element in hormonal health is stress: too much stress can cause both female and male reproductive hormones to go out of whack, and can lead to a decline in a person’s fertility. Healthy hormonal cycles and stress cannot co-exist, so both partners want to make sure to that their stress levels are in check, and their overall health is good in order to have the best reproductive success.

How Often Should I Have Sex?



Baby Making Time!

 

Okay, so you are wanting to make a baby with your partner? You want to know how often you should have sex in order to have the best chances to procreate.

It is a somewhat-complex question, but the answer is fairly simple: it depends. Your first consideration is, how often do you need to have sex with your husband in order to maintain your relationship? You may be tempted to want to keep sexual activity for your ovulation, but that may not be what is best for your relationship with your husband. See, your husband is a man, and he will want to have sex with you all the time, before you even consider when you are ovulating. This is important. You need to understand this influence and involve the man’s need to get his rocks off regularly in order to best procreate. You see, a man’s biological impulses come from our cave man times, when we didn’t have calendars or tracking—men just want to sleep with the closest cave woman!

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask), men still have those same impulses, so it may not register to your man to tell him that you are trying to make a baby. He will almost certainly not want to have sex with you only once per cycle.

So you can bet he is not interested in when you are ovulating; he will want to have sex with you all the time! That is an important part of a heterosexual relationship in producing a baby, so it’s best if you can acknowledge that.

So, when is it best to have sex?

Good question. If you have sex too rarely in your cycle, your man might not develop a sperm count to accommodate your “wanting to conceive” cycle. So, as mentioned above, try to have sex every few days in order to maintain a sperm count conducive to conceiving during your ovulation.

I see you all shaking your heads and saying, “This makes no sense! How is having sex with our men when we’re not ovulating conducive to producing a child?”

I hear you, and I am impressed by your ability to speak in unison (just kidding!). Men’s systems don’t have the memory that women’s systems have. In fact, men’s systems don’t have much of a memory at all! Men’s testes (where the sperm are produced) are only aware of how many sperm are there, and how many need to be produced. It seems crazy to you, as a woman with an entire cycle’s-worth of hormones, being in touch with your hormones the entire cycle-long, that men are really only interested in hormones as they involved with their testicles and sperm production.

You need to teach your husband about your cycle of hormones when it comes to procreation! And the best way to do this is to get them excited about having sex with you throughout your cycle! Make sure to be honest with your husband about your sexual needs, as well as your reproductive needs, throughout your cycle. Likely, it will be hard for your husband to understand your several-week-long-cycle, but that’s okay (cuz, let’s be honest; his cycle is like 24 hours long!).

Another advantage of maintaining a healthy sexual relationship with your husband is that you and he will both be in touch with a baby being conceived and born. Pregnancy and the post-natal period for a woman are incredibly challenging, and she needs her husband’s support during these tough times, so it’s best to have your male partner on-board with you during these times.

So, what is the answer to the question, “How often should I have sex with my husband, if we’re trying to conceive a child?” It is about 48 hours long—that is, every two days. You can track as long as you like, and you can know when you are ovulating to the end of the world, but to your man, it’s best to keep him involved in the procreation process. This is best achieved through sex and through an ongoing dialogue. Sperm count is best kept up through sex every 48-72 hours. So make sure to get it on often! And enjoy it—it is the best way to relax and maintain your own fabulous female fertility!

 

Does A Lack of Cervical Mucus Equate to Infertility?



 

Thinking

So you’ve started tracking your cervical mucus, and you’ve hit a roadblock: it seems that you’re a little (ahem) dry down there. Oh, no! You’re freaking out: what does this mean? Does it mean that I am infertile? Will I never be able to get pregnant? Why is this happening to me?

First, if you’re thinking those things, please take a breath. Calm down, and count to 10. Now, you’re feeling better? Good.

So here it is: chances are, you are overthinking it. If you find that your vagina feels dry (regardless of what time in your cycle it is), your first step is to drink a glass of water. Let’s use Occam’s Razor here: the simplest solution is often the best. So drink some water, eat some soup, up your fluids, and see if that helps.

If you still feel that your mucus is lacking, ask yourself if you have started any new meds recently. If you’ve had allergies and took an antihistamine, that may have an effect on your cervical mucus, since an antihistamine clears out all bodily mucus.

If you’re fully hydrated and have not been taking any new meds or supplements, we can start to look at hormonal causes.

Weight can have an impact on cervical mucus, since weight has a major effect on hormones, especially estrogen. So if you are dealing with a chronically dry vagina, you might want to look at your weight as a potential cause of hormone disruption. (If it is, don’t do anything crazy, like go on a crash diet; just work towards a healthy weight, and you’ll be fine!) Stress also comes into play in a major way when it comes to hormonal balance. One-step you could take is to ensure to eat a whole-food, less-processed diet, exercise daily, and reduce stress levels. Meditation and yoga work for some, kickboxing works for others; find what works for you to maintain lower stress levels in your body so that your hormones can get back to doing their thing.

Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty: your lack of cervical mucus might be caused by a lack of ovulation. If you have tried all the above, it may be due to anovulation, which is really just a fancy word for lack of ovulation. This could be (and likely is) caused by a hormonal issue, so it would still help to focus on diet, exercise and stress levels. Your last option is that your dryness may be related to your age, but there’s not much you can do about that! So it’s best to focus on overall good health in order to achieve your fertility outcome.

You can go to your doctor’s office and have your blood work tested for hormonal levels. If you are not ovulating, you can look into a drug called Clomid (clomifene), which increases your chances of ovulating. An ironic side effect of Clomid use is that it may dry out cervical mucus, so you may end up back where you started!

At the end of the day, it’s important to try not to be too concerned about your cervical mucus. There could be any number of causes for it, and they may go away as quickly as they show up. Make sure you don’t lose intimacy with your partner or avoid sex because of it. There are some vaginal lubricants that will function in much the same way as cervical mucus in carrying sperm into the cervix where it can fertilize the egg. You should be able to find them in local boutique baby stores or larger pharmacies (make sure you don’t just buy grocery store lube, since most lubes will harm sperm).

It is important that you not feel less sexy or attractive (or even less fertile!) because of a lack of cervical mucus. You are still the fabulous person you were! And you may not be as far away from pregnancy as you think. Good luck!