30% of women in their reproductive life experience irregular menstrual cycles. Many women may also experience irregular menstrual cycles in the form of a missed period, continuous periods or periods that occur twice in one menstrual cycle. Whilst an irregular cycle does not necessarily mean you are not able to become pregnant – it can be a sign of hormonal imbalances which are linked to fertility issues.
The well-known average for a woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days, however, “normal” is considered anywhere between 21 to 35 days. So of its only if your cycle is shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days, or you miss cycles all together, that you would be considered to have an irregular cycle.
There are many different reasons why your cycle may fluctuate including illness, travel, stress, exercise levels (too much or too little) and significant weight loss or gain. Also women who recently stop the birth control pill may experience irregular periods for anywhere up until around 1 year.
Many women worry that by having irregular cycles, they will not fall pregnant. This is not necessarily true. Fertility depends on ovulation, rather than on menstruation. As long as you are ovulating normally and can determine when ovulation occurs, your chances of getting pregnant won’t be affected by irregular periods. However, if your cycles are very long, you will ovulate fewer times per year and therefore have fewer opportunities to become pregnant.
There are many factors that affect the regularity of cycles including:
- Excessive exercise
- Hormonal birth control
- Recent childbirth or miscarriage
There are also some medical conditions that may result in irregular cycles:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Uterine abnormalities
- Thyroid function
What You Can Do
Track you ovulation
If you have an irregular cycle it can be quite difficult if not impossible to guess when ovulation will occur. Thankfully, there are reliable methods that can be used to help you determine when you are ovulating such as ovulation predictor kits, cervical mucus exams and taking your daily basal body temperature (click here to read more about these methods).
Check you exercise levels
If you exercise a lot – i.e. working out for several hours each day, or training for a marathon – you should speak with your healthcare professional to determine whether you need to cut back. As women need a certain level of body fat to ovulate normally, and too much exercise can delay this (click here for more information).
For obese or overweight women, it is best to lose weight gradually as losing it too fast may also not change or increase irregular periods. Obesity has shown to affect hormonal signals to the ovaries and therefore interfere with ovulation. In addition, increased weight can cause insulin levels to climb, which causes the ovaries to overproduce male hormones and stop releasing eggs.
Meditation, gentle exercises such as yoga and other relaxation techniques can help to keep stress levels down. This helps to ensure that your hormone levels are more balanced, which may lead to more normalised cycle times. Relaxation therapies such as massage and meditation can assist in lowering stress levels can have an impact on cycle regularity.
Natural therapies such as Acupuncture and Naturopathy can assist in balancing hormones which help to regulate your cycle.
To find out the best options for you, feel free to consult one of our natural fertility specialists. To make an enquiry or to book an appointment please call us on 02 6295 0400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.