There’s nothing funny about struggling with infertility, but the journey itself does come with its fair share of moments that you can’t help but laugh at. From the tiny condoms used to cover the ultrasound wands to the idea of your husband’s sperm literally going to the spa to get washed and buffered, if you’re not laughing, you’re crying. That’s why when I was told that I had a “hostile uterus,” I couldn’t help but giggle.
We tried for a year without any luck. Month after month of negative pregnancy tests convinced me to meet with a fertility specialist. She recommended that we take a long list of tests to come up with a diagnosis. I found it particularly unfair that my husband’s test consisted of having an orgasm and calling it a day while I’m poked and prodded for three months straight.
My doctor was confused by my reaction to the diagnosis. As I sat in the sterile office of my fertility doctor (devoid of any photos of her children for obvious reasons), I prepared for the worst. Half a uterus. Blocked fallopian tubes. Withered, old eggs. The one thing I hadn’t prepared for–something I had never in my life heard of–was the news I actually received. “You have a hostile uterus.” My blank stare was followed by a maniacal giggle. She was confused by my reaction and it was honestly a little awkward. It’s just that I can’t name another body part with personified qualities. I imagined my uterus with a knife or a finger on a detonator. My uterus is a terrorist, you guys.
Obviously I had a lot of questions. Once I was reassured that a hostile uterus wasn’t just something she came up with that day, I needed to hear more about it. A hostile uterus should actually be called “hostile cervical mucus,” but why not just blame it all on the uterus? Apparently, my rude uterus has been given this name because the fluid secreted by the glands of the cervix, cervical mucus or cervical fluid, is no longer in its ideal position of facilitating pregnancy. It has literally become unfriendly to the motile sperm. The “unfriendly” adjective is not something I came up with, by the way—it’s literal medical jargon that came out of my doctor’s mouth. As a result, the sperm loses its ability to penetrate my cervix and is even killed prior to making its way into the fallopian tube to fertilize the egg. So basically, my uterus is murdering my husband’s sperm. Awesome.
What causes this anyway? There are a few different causes of a hostile uterus (still can’t say it with a straight face): hormone imbalances, especially low estrogen states, the reduced pH of cervical mucus, the presence of inflammatory cells in the cervix, or the presence of a sperm antibody. In my case, it’s caused by a hormone imbalance. No surprise here with all the fertility drugs I’ve been taking.
Luckily, there are treatments to make your uterus a friendly place. The treatment of a hostile uterus varies with the cause—ask your doctor why your uterus is so hateful towards sperm. Mine prescribed a synthetic form of estrogen, but when that didn’t work, we moved onto an IUI. Intrauterine insemination bypasses the cervical mucus to reach the egg.
I even tried less conventional methods. My doctor didn’t necessarily condone this, but when you’re desperate for a miracle, you’ll try anything. Apparently, taking guaifenesin during ovulation can reduce the mucus’ thickness. One can find guaifenesin in cough medication like Robitussin, so I was drinking the stuff like a rebellious teenager looking for a buzz. I do NOT recommend this as a treatment. Not only did it not work for me, it turns out that cough medicine is terrible for you in large quantities.
When I tell people about this, I always laugh. Listen, I know that there’s nothing funny about infertility and if you’re going through it yourself, I’m sending you hugs. But the thing is, for all the time I spent sobbing under the covers at the news of another friend getting pregnant on the first try, I had to find a way to cope. I am certainly not laughing at infertility, but I try my best to make light of it. When I share the news of my hostile uterus, people think I’m making it up. When I start to laugh, they laugh with me, which is a much better reaction than the sad, pitiful eyes I normally get. That’s the one and only reason to feel thankful for my hostile uterus.
Unfortunately, this didn’t solve our fertility issues. Apparently, this isn’t our only problem. After three IUIs, we still didn’t have luck. I wondered if maybe his sperm was hostile too. Additional testing was done for him and it turns out that his sperm aren’t the best swimmers. Basically, we have lethargic sperm and a cranky uterus. I can’t make this stuff up.
Hostile uteruses should be paired with hostile people. Just as good things happen to bad people, being friendly does not grant you friendly body parts. A hard working man can be matched with slow, lazy sperm. Add this to the long list of things that don’t make sense.
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