Confused about why you’re not becoming pregnant? Tired of getting negative pregnancy tests?
Are you worried you might be having anovulatory cycles? If the process of becoming pregnant has you feeling overwhelmed and even a little depressed, you’re not alone!
One of the biggest hurdles for many individuals trying to get pregnant is figuring out their ovulation schedule.
The meeting of egg and sperm may have seemed like an easy process in your middle school science class.
Unfortunately, getting the timing right in real life may involve some tracking with the help of ovulation trackers.
If you’ve been tracking your periods for months trying to get pregnant, you might be surprised to learn that having a period does not necessarily mean you’ve ovulated.
Some women experience what appears to be a period even when eggs are not released from their ovaries.
Confused? Allow us to introduce you to anovulatory cycles.
Ovulation is the part of the menstrual cycle when an egg is released from the ovary.
It typically occurs 12-14 days before your next period (so around day 14 of a 28-day-cycle), but the exact timing may vary.
The reason why your ovulation timing varies is your hormonal cycle. Releasing an egg from your ovary is not a simple task. Your brain is involved in it along with specific hormones.
First, the hypothalamus secretes gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This causes another gland in the brain, called the pituitary gland, to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
Once released, FSH helps the egg to develop and stimulates the hormone estrogen to build up the uterine lining. The body does this to offer a good home to the fertilized egg.
Once the egg is mature, your body will experience an increase in Luteinizing hormone (LH) or the “LH surge” as it is commonly called. This causes the body to release the egg from the ovary into the fallopian tube. Ovulation can occur about 24 to 36 hours after the LH surge.
After you ovulate, you’re in the second half of your cycle, the postovulatory phase.
Progesterone is the dominant hormone in this part of the cycle, and it supports the lining of the uterus for a potential pregnancy.
If you become pregnant, progesterone levels stay high preventing a period. If the egg is unfertilized, you will stop producing progesterone and have a period.
Because eggs have a limited window of time during which they can be fertilized, if you’re hoping to become pregnant knowing when ovulation is occurring is very beneficial. The days around ovulation are critical to the conception process!
Anovulation is the absence of ovulation. If you’d prefer to think of it another way, anovulation occurs when an egg is not released from the ovaries during a menstrual cycle.
How Often Does A Woman Have An Anovulatory Cycle? (Can I Have An Anovulatory Cycle Every Month?)
Experiencing an anovulatory cycle once or twice a year is perfectly normal. For most women, an anovulatory cycle may be lost in between two normal ovulatory cycles. Many other women may experience anovulatory cycles multiple times in a row. This chronic problem is the primary cause of infertility.
In fact, approximately 30% of female infertility is the result of anovulation. Chronic anovulatory cycles can pose a fertility problem.
So how do you know that you are experiencing anovulation, and what steps will your doctor take to identify/treat it?
Some common symptoms of anovulation are:
Because you may still experience period-like bleeding during months when an egg has not been released, you won’t be able to confirm ovulation based on your period. You’ll need to use another method to confirm anovulation.
Over-the-counter ovulation tests may seem like an easy way to know if you’ve ovulated or not.
However, these tests measure only your LH levels and not progesterone. So, they won’t fully prove whether you ovulated.
if you believe that you are not ovulating and wish to conceive, you should see your doctor for an official diagnosis and help in addressing the situation.
Your doctor will get the following tests done –
Unfortunately, testing can be pricey. It can also be emotionally and physically exhausting if you have to head into the doctor’s office every day for follicle growth and maturity checks.
Getting yourself pricked for progesterone tests can be painful.
You can try at-home ovulation tests like the Inito Fertility Monitor. This helps track your fertile days and confirm ovulation all from the comfort of your home! It works by measuring all three hormones – estrogen, LH, and progesterone.
If occasional anovulation is normal, you’re probably wondering what causes it?
A common reason women experience anovulation is hormonal shifts and imbalances.
This explains why most women experience anovulatory cycles in the year following their first period and as they get closer to menopause (around ages 40 to 50).
Not all cases of anovulation are based on hormonal shifts associated with the human life cycle though.
Anovulation can also be caused by:
If you have recently stopped hormonal birth control, there is also a chance you may experience anovulation. This is because many forms of hormonal birth control (pills, patches, IUDs with hormones, etc.) are designed to stop ovulation with synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone that can have lasting effects on the body’s hormone systems.
Your doctor may suggest a variety of treatment options depending upon the cause of your anovulation.
If anovulation is being caused by external lifestyle choices, your doctor may recommend changes to your diet and exercise plan to restart ovulation.
Depending on your current health, this may mean you’ll need to increase or decrease the number of calories you consume every day. Your doctor may also ask you to exercise more or reduce the amount of strain you’re putting on your body.
If you’re experiencing anovulation as a result of internal imbalances, your doctor may prescribe fertility medications. These drugs can help to ripen the follicles, increase estrogen, and cause the ovaries to release eggs.
In rare situations where a serious complication is causing your anovulation, like a tumor, surgery may be necessary to address the issue.
If getting pregnant is taking longer than you’d like, you may want to spend time tracking your ovulation cycle. (Need some help with that? Don’t forget about Inito!)
Occasionally experiencing anovulation is normal, but if you discover that your body is frequently failing to ovulate, and you would like to conceive, you’ll want to talk with your doctor. (They may perform an ultrasound and draw some blood to determine why ovulation is not occurring.)
Depending on the reason you’re experiencing anovulation, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes, prescribe medications to help encourage egg growth/release, or in rare circumstances recommend surgery.
As you make these adjustments, Inito can help you to track your fertility and confirm when ovulation has occurred. With the help of this information, a positive pregnancy test result may soon follow! (And if you’re not interested in conceiving, you can still use the helpful information Inito provides as part of your family planning.)
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015). Fertility awareness-based methods of family planning. acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Fertility-Awareness-Based-Methods-of-Family-Planning
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/symptoms-causes/syc-20353439
Su HW, et al. (2016). Detection of ovulation: A review of currently available methods. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/btm2.10058