Posts Tagged ‘get pregnant’

About atrophy, reproductive aging, and how it’s really not nice to fool Mother Nature – or with

June 27, 2010

I have taken it upon myself to popularize Prof. Erik Odeblad’s classic findings about the biophysics of the tissues and secretions of cervix uteri, and how they translate into reproductive physiology and hence to reproductive medicine – at home and in the doctor’s office.

Emeritus Professsor Erik Odeblad

  Emeritus Professor Erik Odeblad    “The cervix is a precision organ as complex as the eye”

My ulterior motive is that I want to be understood when harking back to the British commercial’s exclamation that warned about too arrogant an attitude towards Mother Nature. Or, maybe I aim at the wisdom of the saying (“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”) to be appreciated particularly within the given field of endeavor and/or endeavour – that is, reproductive management. Even if it were only in a segment of it.

In the Alphabet of bioZhena (which is no Alphabet of Ben Sira, though we model on it somewhat), , there is an entry about Atrophy and what it does to a woman as years go by, how “atrophy of mucosal surfaces takes place, accompanied by several problems.”

Jan Amos Komenský (Comenius) Says Farewell to...

Jan Amos Komenský (Comenius) Says Farewell to…

In this blog post I focus on aging – and thus atrophy – of the cervix, leaving aside the inevitable corresponding phenomena in other parts of the reproductive system.

The focus on the cervix is due to bioZhena’s focus on the cervix… which in our scheme of things is the supreme monitor of the complex reproductive goings on that Mother Nature designed in order to cope with all that complexity. After you’ve read the Alphabet article on atrophy, you might scroll down to the entry there about the cervix, which will take you also through cervical cancer and cervical mucus, besides a couple of other things cervical. That will or would be a nice preparation for, or introduction to, what follows.

Prof. Erik Odeblad's sketches from 13 February 2008

Two sketches by Emeritus Professor Erik Odeblad to illustrate his saying, “The cervix is a precision organ as complex as the eye”. Click (right-click) on the image to see the details. And read on about the details. The fine structure of the cervical canal wall, schematized on the right, is based on examination of mucus samples obtained with a suction syringe from the various parts of the cervical canal of human volunteers for physico-chemical examination.

When, at the inception of the project, we decided to focus on the given part of the anatomy, Erik Odeblad’s work logically and inevitably became a part of the background. He used the NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) technique of physical chemistry to perform the complicated investigation of cervical mucus, and he produced the classical evidence for the difference between the “fertile” mucus macromolecules that allow the passage of the sperm, and the “infertile” cross-linked glycoprotein molecular network that does not. (To this day I remember his usage of “undulations”…)

In fact, this early information, which involved the thiol-disulfide (sulphydryl-disulphide) redox couples in the glycoprotein macromolecule, had much to do with our early hypothesis of the mechanism of our measurements. Never mind that his work was in the context of the subjective self-examination used in NFP, which did not work for the female member of the team! Had it worked for her, there would probably not be any Ovulona™ for monitoring folliculogenesis in vivo (FIV™ – which has utility well beyond fertility status determination)!

With atrophy being the general biological aspect of aging (and with the initially very large number of ova or eggs in the young female’s ovaries decreasing as she matures and ages), the cervix similarly “undergoes a natural process of development and aging. The surface area of the cervix that is given over to the mucus secreting glands [“crypts”] gradually diminishes with age.”

Odeblad defines three types of the (endo)cervical glands, which he (and others too e.g. Embryology.CH and Eurocytology.EU since at least the 1970s) calls the “crypts”:

  • S crypts produce S mucus, which forms string-like channels and provides transport (“swimming lanes”) for sperm cells. (“Produces a wet, lubricative sensation at the vulva.” That’s for the NFP sympto-thermal method use, the Billings method and/or the Creighton Model NaProEducation Technology method, the classical NFP or FAM – the latter, Fertility Awareness Method, publicized by Ms. Toni Weschler’s 2002 book Taking Charge of Your Fertility .)
  • L crypts produce L mucus, which eliminates low-quality sperm and provides a structure to support what he calls the S and the P mucus. P is a reference to the so-called Peak mucus of NFP or FAM.
  • G crypts produce G mucus, which is “an impenetrable gestagenic mucus formed in the lowest cervical crypts. Prevents sperm entry to the cervix and is part of the immune system which protects the woman’s reproductive system from infection.” A remark from gestagen (jěs’tə-jən, -jěn’) n. A substance, such as a steroid hormone, that affects the uterus in a manner similar to progesterone. And a remark from a scientific commentator: This G mucus is characterized by the oxidized state of the mentioned redox couples, causing cross-linking in the glycoprotein mucin, which prevents microbes including sperm from entering. Visualize this as closed -S—S- gates (as opposed to the open gate form -SH   HS- of the “reduced” state of the redox couples; “reduced” meaning “electronated and hydrogenated”, the opposite of “oxidized”).


There are three fundamental principles at work.

1. Natural baseline aging, and this is fundamental – a more or less linear decrease in the number of all three kinds of these glands or crypts, at somewhat different rates: S the fastest, L somewhat slower, G slower still.

2. Slow-down of the aging atrophy by pregnancy.

3. Acceleration of the aging atrophy by the Pill [and/or by other endocrine-active compounds, EACs – this is a logical extrapolation, speculative, but must be assumed].

Now, then.

1. Natural baseline aging, fundamental – a more or less linear decrease in the number of all three kinds of these glands or crypts:

“The number of S crypts decreases from teen age. They are first replaced by L crypts starting at the base of the cervix. Later G crypts replace the L crypts.”

Thus, from Odeblad’s graph [rate reckoned from 15 yrs old to 40 yrs old]:

S crypt baseline decrease or diminution (or atrophy) rate:

50% / 25 years = 2% per year.

At 50 years old, S crypts are at some 10%.

Profile crypts baseline never pregnant never on the Pill

Profile of cervical crypts of a baseline woman – never pregnant & never on the Pill

Representative profile of cervical crypts

(percentage of cervix occupied by active crypts)

for a woman who goes through life without pregnancy or use of the Pill.

This is a baseline profile.

Here is Erik Odeblad’s schematic of the crypts on the surface of the cervical canal:

Cervix of a 20 year old virgin

Carefully mapped lateral wall of the cervix of a 20 year old virgin           (reported by Emeritus Professor Erik Odeblad, Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Umeå, S-90187, Umeå, Sweden)

This is Professor Odeblad’s artist’s impression of cervical mucus secretions:

Mucus secretions

Schematics of cervical mucus secretions

Key to colors:

Blue         = S mucus

Yellow     = L mucus

Red          = G mucus

Green      = P mucus of which there are several sub-types

Pink         = Z granules

Professor Odeblad’s explanatory notes:

Z granules – the enzyme in the Z granules combines with the P mucus to create a liquefying effect.

P mucus – there are a number of sub-types of this mucus, the most relevant for fertility are P2 and P6. P2 could be present as early as the beginning of the fertile phase possibly having a role in liquefying the G mucus. P6 is mostly confined to the upper part of the cervix, occurring close to the Peak of fertility, and having a role in conveying sperm. It creates a very wet and lubricative sensation at the vulva.

F mucus – comes from the cells scattered throughout the length of the cervical canal and has no known special function.

For a recent evidence of four different morphological mucus types, namely L, S, P and G, see “Morphological characterization of different human cervical mucus types using light and scanning electron microscopy” by M. Menárguez, L.M. Pastor and E. Odeblad, Human Reproduction, Vol. 18, No. 9, 1782-1789, September 2003 –

Citation: “The distribution of crypt zones in the cervix depends on age, number of pregnancies and use of contraception. In a non-pregnant woman, aged 25–30years and not having used contraception, the cervix averages 22 mm in length and 6 mm in diameter at ovulation. The crypt distribution starting from below and moving upwards is as follows: the G crypts dominate in the lowest 4–5 mm; then there is a zone of L crypts occupying the next 9–10 mm; this is followed by the S zone, for 5–6 mm; and the highest 3–4 mm contains the P crypts.”

When you read the paper, you detect that he has a very special knack for sampling the respective mucus types from the said crypts. Hat off! Work with human experimental subjects is no stroll in the park, to put this mildly.

2. Slow-down of atrophy aging by pregnancy:

Profile crypts 4x pregnant

Profile of cervical crypts of a 4x pregnant woman

Representative profile of cervical crypts

(percentage of cervix occupied by active crypts)

for a woman who goes through life with four pregnancies and no use of the Pill.

Pregnancy – S crypt diminution rate from Odeblad’s graph

[4 pregnancies, no Pill, rate reckoned from 15 yrs old to 40 yrs old]:

30% / 25 years = 1.2% per year.

At 50 years old, S crypts are at some 20%.

3. Acceleration of atrophy aging by the Pill [and/or by other endocrine-active compounds, EACs – a logical extrapolation]

Profile of cervical crypts of a woman on the Pill

Representative profile of cervical crypts

(percentage of cervix occupied by active crypts)

for a woman who goes through life without pregnancy and uses the Pill for 10 years

Pill – S crypt diminution rate from Odeblad’s graph

[no pregnancy, Pill for 10 years (18 to 28 yrs old), rate reckoned from 15 yrs old to 40 yrs old]:

60% / 25 years = 2.4% per year.

At 50 years old, S crypts are at some 5%.

This includes the slow down of the diminution gradient during the last 12 years of no Pill.

Compare this with diminution/atrophy rate during the 10 years on the Pill:

65% – 25% = 40% / 10 years = 4% per year.

This is double the baseline rate of cervical atrophy.

It’s more than 3 times higher than the pregnancy-slowed atrophy rate.

Three concluding remarks by Prof. Odeblad:

“Regression when taking the Pill is different for estrogen-dependent crypts (L and S) and progesterone-dependent crypts (G) which may in part overdevelop.”

“The study of the effects of contraceptive pills on the cervix is a difficult task. A considerable amount of work is required for each patient and the time required spans many years, up to 10 years or more. Many women also want to change to other pills or to other methods of contraception, or perhaps now want to become pregnant. It also happens that some pills are withdrawn from the market. To these difficulties are added the normal age changes in the cervix and the dynamic processes which are of constant occurrence. After 3 and up to 15 months of contraceptive pill use, there is a greater loss of the S crypt cells than can be replaced.” (“Some Notes on the Cervical Crypts”, Dr E. Odeblad, Bulletin of the Ovulation Method Research and Reference Centre of Australia, Vol 24 No 2 June 1997, p31)

Citations and graphics reproduced from .

“Complications arising from the use of the Pill are very frequent. Infertility after its use for 7-15 years is a very serious problem. S crypts are very sensitive to normal and cyclical stimulation by natural oestrogens, and the Pill causes atrophy of these crypts. Fertility is impaired since the movement of sperm cells up the canal is reduced. Treatment is difficult.” He also wrote: “After 3 to 15 months of contraceptive pill use, there is a greater loss of the S crypt cells than can be replaced … A pregnancy rejuvenates the cervix by 2-3 years, but for each year the Pill is taken, the cervix ages by an extra year.” Web reference: .

Comment on implications for treatments of certain symptoms

For example, the suggested method [Weschler, Toni (2002). Taking Charge of Your Fertility (Revised ed.). New York: HarperCollins. p. 52] of thinning cervical mucus to help achieve pregnancy by taking the OTC expectorant drug guaifenesin, which is thought to act by increasing the volume and reducing the viscosity of secretions.

The drug is also used to treat the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea [severe uterine pain during menstruation ] where another treatment of choice is combined oral contraceptives [COCs]. Such treatments are administered to adolescents as well as to mature women because dysmenorrhea is a very common and serious problem (25% of women and up to 90% of adolescents ).

In both cases, the expectorant and the contraceptives are administered without knowledge of their mechanism of action in the given problem. Focus is on treating symptoms, not the underlying causes. The patient is the detector of any effect. How does the expectorant drug use correlate with the secretions of the different types of cervical mucus on the one hand, and with the folliculogenesis cyclic profile on the other? Is there any connection? If not, what does the drug do to the different crypts? And what the COCs do to them?

Is the expectorant so selective that it might do the right thing? Reduce type G? Enhance type S mucus? Does oxidation of the guaifenesin help reduce the cross-linked mucin type G in the cervical canal? As simple and pretty as that? (Even prettier if guaifenesin were not to be an EAC, an endocrine-active compound … which inactivity does not look likely – .)

Would it not be nice to have a rationale for how the small guaifenesin molecule can have a good effect on both sub-fertility/infertility and dysmenorrhea?

Could it be that guaifenesin works bioelectrochemically in the same oxidation-reduction (redox) manner on the enzyme cyclooxygenase in the prostaglandin cascade, which is a cascade of redox reactions – producing an anti-inflammatory effect that translates as suppression of pain? (On a personal note, why not capitalize here at least conceptually on our ancient Wellcome Research Labs work, even before receiving – presumably – the first pension money from Glaxo Smith Kline?)

It’s easier to contemplate in general the effect of the contraceptive drug, which will presumably depend on the contents of the estrogenic and gestagenic components (modeling on Odeblad’s findings)…

Is there a connection between pain, cervix and ovaries, ovarian reserves? Maybe an abnormal depletion of, via ovarian cysts? Will the number of follicular waves and/or other features in the Ovulona cyclic profile – and correlated with ultrasound and MRI – show any such abnormality? Might the Ovulona be useful for diagnosis here, convenient, simple (inexpensive)? Wouldn’t that be nice?

Is cyclooxygenase inhibition detected by the cervix, does it show in the cyclic profile? Does said prostaglandin synthesis inhibition alter the number of follicular waves – while reducing the pain?

Answers to questions like these are needed. Keep in mind that ovulation is an inflammatory process, and since we detect it in the cyclic profile, it is reasonable to pose the above prostaglandin theory questions about the COX-2 (cyclooxygenase) inhibition.

Summarizing Odeblad’s results and the take-home message:

Baseline outcome of cervical S crypts aging: S crypts down to 20% at 40 years of age. Here you have the reason why mature age leads to sub-fertility and to infertility.

Atrophy slow-down effect of 4 pregnancies: S crypts down to 40% at 40 years of age. Here you see Mother Nature’s design in action. Pregnancy slows down the inherent rate of cervical aging (atrophy, deterioration). Naturally, this is not to argue for 4 pregnancies per lifetime – it’s merely how the effect was made measurable.

Atrophy acceleration effect of 10 years on the Pill: S crypts down to 10% at 40 years of age. Here is why it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature, why it’s not good to mess with her design. The Pill is an archetypal anthropogenic Endocrine-Active Compound [man-made EAC], and it was brought up in the previous post how there are very many of these EACs, all insulting the female body and health, some – like chemical contraceptives – by design.

While the story of Laodamia and Protesilao is touching, I merely want to ask that girls, ladies and their physicians do not moon the messenger.



And now, go and check out the 2012 post “The fallacy of ovulation calculators, calendars and circulating-hormone detectors” at


Peri-vernal equinox tweets on #conceiving, #fertility status, achieving #pregnancy in the era of #infertility – “a modern epidemic”

March 20, 2010

NFP aficionados know that fertility awareness is for birth control, too

And language aficionados will know that the peri in the title does not refer to any “one of a large group of beautiful, fairylike beings of Persian mythology, represented as descended from fallen angels and excluded from paradise until their penance is accomplished.” Nor, for that matter, to “any lovely, graceful person.”

Peri or Paeri of Persian folklore and mythology

Peri or Paeri of Persian folklore and mythology

Peri is a prefix meaning “about” or “around” and “near”, appearing in loanwords from Greek []. Just like here, whereby we invoke the Spring Equinox – when the Sun rises exactly in the east, travels through the sky for exactly 12 hours and sets exactly in the west – this year on March 20. “And anyone standing on the equator at noon will not cast a shadow” []. Lovely!

So then, now for the tweets (a little edited, since here we do not have the 140 character limit, and – in the usual manner – with clickable links to further information, including the #hash tags).

1)         2009 sales of #fertility LH kits at $272M outpaced #pregnancy tests Not exactly surprising since ~30% of US women do not get #pregnant in 6 or 12 months 12:04 PM Mar 16th

2)         #Infertility is “a modern epidemic”. In 17 studies, 56% of the relevant sub-population (range 42–76%) in developed countries sought medical help but less than 1/2 of them received care 2:30 PM Mar 16th

3)         Unintended pregnancies = “global epidemic”. US family planning is “uniquely deficient” (50%) Cause: high contraceptive failure rates 2:34 PM Mar 16th

4)         Leading causes of unintended pregnancy are closely related to #contraceptive failure. Failure rates: 31% the Pill, 18% condoms, 5% 3-month injectable #birth control 2:43 PM Mar 16th

5)      Medscape OBGYN: #fertility awareness can be highly satisfactory #birth control & #family planning method 3:14 PM Mar 16th

6)      RT @bioZhena #fertility awareness [FA] is a great #birth control & #family planning method especially for women 30+ years of age, and those who are able to practice FA without a teacher 3:23 PM Mar 16th

7)      Statisticians: Best frequency of sex for unfocused conception attempts is every 2 or 3 days to avoid exhaustion. Else, everyday 5:32 PM Mar 16th

8)      RT@bioZhena But even sex every day for 20 days from day 6 to day 25 only computes as 69% probability of conception. So what else is new in the world of sub- #fertility, wanting #pregnancy but being put into the sub- #fertile category 5:34 PM Mar 16th

9)      Trying to get #pregnant without knowing when-to frequently does not work for a long time. Yet, often all that’s needed is knowing your actual fertile window in the present cycle 7:18 PM Mar 16th

10)  For #fertilityawareness, NFP for #pregnancy and/or #birthcontrol, we have the tool for you — or, rather, will have, once funded. Comments? 7:19 PM Mar 16th

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