Cervical Factor Infertility
Definition - What does Cervical Factor Infertility mean?
Cervical factor infertility is the inability to conceive due to the presence of an abnormal cervical mucus. The mucus may be too scanty, thick or sticky, which interrupts the transport of sperm from the vagina through the cervix into the uterus, and finally to the fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg. Cervical factor infertility contributes to about 5% to 10% of cases of infertility.
FertilitySmarts explains Cervical Factor Infertility
The cervix contains small glands that produce cervical mucus. Normal textured mucus not only provides the sperm a favorable environment to swim and reach its destination but it also provides nutrition to the sperm. Close to ovulation, raised estrogen levels causes cervical mucus to become thinner, thus, easing the transfer of sperm to the egg. However, in a minority of women, the following factors can interfere with the cervical mucus texture and eventually the transport of sperm:
- Female babies exposed to a formerly used harmful agent called diethylstilbestrol while their mother was pregnant with them
- Extensive surgery on the cervix (damages the cervical glands)
- Medications like clomiphene citrate may thicken cervical mucus, impeding the penetration of sperm
- Abnormal narrowing of the cervical opening called cervical stenosis
- The presence of anti-sperm antibodies in the cervical mucus that mistakenly attack the sperm assuming it to be a foreign agent such as a bacteria or virus
If a doctor suspects cervical factor infertility, a test called a post-coital test (PCT) can be done just prior to ovulation within 6 hours of intercourse to assess the consistency of the mucus and the motility of the sperm within the mucus under a microscope. The presence of at least one motile sperm and stretchy cervical mucus indicates a normal PCT. However, if the test shows multiple dead or immobile sperm, a possible antisperm-antibody reaction may be the culprit.
Once confirmed, cervical factor infertility is usually treated by intrauterine insemination (IUI), a procedure in which a sperm is directly placed into the uterus using a small tube. This enables the sperm to bypass the abnormal cervical mucus, ensuring its passage to the uterus. If a cervical stenosis is detected, it can usually be successfully treated with a minor office procedure called cervical dilatation.