Fertility

10 things about anovulatory cycles you need to know

Eloise Edington  |   17 Aug 2022


anovulation-eggs-inito

1 in 10 women experience anovulation at some point in their lives. It’s a relatively common condition, and the number one cause of infertility. Nearly 30% of women struggle to get pregnant because of problems with ovulation. 

TTC? Timing is everything 

You may think that keeping track of your period is the best way to find the ideal time for sex, so that you’re more likely to conceive. 

But did you know that your fertile window actually centres around ovulation? 

Ovulation is when your ovary releases a mature egg, so that it can meet the male sperm. On meeting, they form the embryo that grows into a baby. 

So when an egg isn’t released from the follicle in your ovary, we know that getting pregnant will be an uphill climb. Anovulation can be frustrating. But armed with the right information and tools, you’ll be far more empowered. 

This guide, put together with at-home hormone testing experts Inito, sheds light on what anovulation is, with tips on what you can do to track your ovulation time, and improve your chances of getting pregnant. 

Let’s get started –  

Anovulation – the basics

Did you know that your monthly cycle is actually divided into two phases – the preovulatory phase (follicular phase) and the postovulatory phase (luteal phase)?

These may seem like complicated terms, but they actually describe the time period before and after the main event – your ovulation day. The days leading up to ovulation make up the follicular phase, and the time after ovulation is the luteal phase. 

inito-anovulation-cycle-graph

How does anovulation fit into your cycle?

Let’s break down what’s actually happening in your body, as you go through your cycle.

  • During the preovulatory phase of your cycle, your body releases the hormone oestrogen. 
  • As oestrogen levels rise, your brain releases Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which stimulates the ovary to release a mature egg from its follicle. This usually happens 12-14 days before your next period
  • Ovulation occurs when the egg breaks free from the follicle. It usually takes place 24-36 hours after the surge in LH levels
  • The egg enters through the fallopian tube, making its way into the uterus, where it’s ready to meet with the sperm (if you’ve had sex during this timeframe). 
  • The ruptured follicle (or the corpus luteum, as it’s now called) still has an important function – it releases progesterone, which becomes the main hormone in the postovulatory phase of your cycle. 
  • When your progesterone levels start to rise, your body and uterus begin preparing for the possibility that you might get pregnant. This includes building the uterine lining, to make a comfortable and nourishing home for the new baby. 
  • As we all know, things don’t always work according to plan. If your egg doesn’t get fertilised by the sperm during your fertile window, the corpus luteum stops producing progesterone, your uterus sheds its thickened inner lining, and you get your period. 

Now that we know the important role ovulation plays in getting pregnant, we can see that any problems with releasing the egg will naturally affect your chances of pregnancy. 

We know what happens in a normal ovulatory cycle, so let’s find out what happens when ovulation doesn’t occur. 

Anovulation, a definition

Simply put, an-ovulation means no ovulation

Anovulatory cycles are menstrual cycles where ovulation doesn’t occur. The egg isn’t released from the follicle, so it can’t be fertilised by the sperm. And this is why your chances of getting pregnant drop drastically.

inito-normal-cycle-anovulatory-cycle

Are anovulatory cycles normal? 

According to Inito, yes. Many women may experience one or two anovulatory cycles in a year, making this one of their most common FAQs. 

But why does anovulation happen? Let’s take a look at all the factors which play a role in your menstrual cycle. 

Ovulation depends on changes in your hormone levels. So it’s not surprising that you may experience anovulation and irregular bleeding patterns when you’re just entering adolescence and start getting your periods. Or, as your body transitions into menopause. 

Plus, your sex hormones can fluctuate due to various factors like stress, lack of sleep, eating habits, lack of exercise, and much more. 

Normal, maybe. But don’t dismiss your symptoms. If you’re experiencing frequent changes in your monthly cycles, it’s important to speak to your doctor. 

The root causes of anovulation 

If you have more than 1-2 anovulatory cycles a year during your reproductive years, it does affect your chances of having a baby. Unfortunately, 6-15% of women struggle with chronic anovulation. 

A few common causes behind anovulatory cycles are: 

High prolactin levels

Prolactin is a hormone released by the anterior pituitary gland in your brain. High levels of prolactin hormone (hyperprolactinemia) can interfere with oestrogen and progesterone levels, leading to irregular periods. 

Hypothyroidism

When your thyroid gland doesn’t produce or release adequate hormones, it causes an imbalance of other hormone levels, and can prevent the ovary from releasing an egg.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) 

PCOS is a common hormonal disorder. It causes the follicles in the ovaries to grow into fluid-filled sacs, which don’t then release an egg. Studies show that up to 70% of women with reduced fertility due to anovulation have PCOS. 

Anovulation symptoms

It can be challenging to identify anovulatory cycles. But the most common signs are irregular periods, where you may experience heavy or light bleeding. Some women even miss their period altogether. Many notice that their cervix is dry, due to a lack of cervical mucus during their cycles. 

According to medical theory, your period starts when the egg released by a follicle isn’t fertilised, and the uterus begins to shed its lining. Technically, you can’t menstruate if you don’t ovulate. So why do some women bleed, even if they have anovulatory cycles? 

It happens quite often, and up to one-third of people with a uterus, and of childbearing age, do experience irregular bleeding, without ovulating. This is known as anovulatory bleeding, Abnormal Uterine Bleeding (AUB) or breakthrough bleeding

Even though oestrogen causes the uterine lining to build and thicken, without ovulation, there’s no ruptured follicle, which in turn means there’s no progesterone. The uterine lining cannot sustain itself without progesterone, so it begins to shed, causing a bleed. 

Can you get pregnant with anovulatory cycles?

Unfortunately, no. 30% of women suffering from infertility experience problems with ovulation. 

Without ovulation, no egg is released. And this prevents fertilisation, and conception.

Diagnosing anovulation

Before diagnosing, a doctor will usually take a detailed history of your menstrual periods. They may ask you about: 

  • Your last menstrual period (LMP) and the date of the first day of bleeding
  • Your cycle length and frequency 
  • Heaviness of bleeding
  • Intermenstrual bleeding, or breakthrough bleeds between cycles
  • Postcoital bleeding, or bleeding after sex 
  • The age you began menstruating, or if you’re approaching menopause

This is usually followed by a range of investigations, which include:

inito-blood-test-ultrasound-pregnancy-test

Sonographies 

An ultrasound scan to monitor the growth and rupture of your follicles. Although it’s a definitive test for ovulation, follicular scanning requires a sonography every day during the estimated fertile window, which can be very taxing and expensive if you’re trying to conceive. 

Blood tests

A lab test for hormone levels like oestrogen, progesterone, thyroid hormones and prolactin.

Ovulation predictor kits and fertility monitors 

These can be useful to confirm ovulation. The Inito Fertility Monitor can track your fertile days and easily confirm ovulation, measuring all four hormones involved in your menstrual cycle (follicle stimulating hormone (FSH,) oestrogen, luteinising hormone (LH), and progesterone (PdG)).

Inito tracks your unique hormone patterns with personalised data and lab-grade accuracy, on a single test strip, within 10 minutes. 

inito-anovulation-cycle-normal-cycle

Keep it natural – lifestyle tips to navigate anovulation

Your doctor will work with you to find out if any lifestyle stressors are causing anovulatory cycles. Often a few changes in your daily routine are enough to trigger ovulation again. Your care providers may advise you to: 

  • Decrease your stress levels with meditation, yoga, or deep breathing 
  • Manage your weight, ensuring that your BMI isn’t too high or too low
  • Balance your meals with folate-rich foods, like leafy green vegetables, legumes, and broccoli, while avoiding fried and sugary foods
  • Avoid intense exercise and stick to routines that suit your body
  • Improve your sleep quality by regulating your bedtime and waking hours 

Medication for anovulation 

Depending on the cause(s) behind anovulation, your doctor may recommend different treatments to tackle any issues. If you’re trying to conceive, ovulation induction is one method used to increase the chance of pregnancy.

Commonly prescribed medications include clomiphene citrate, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), or synthetic hormones like GnRH agonists and antagonists, which control the release of luteinising hormone (LH). 

Anovulatory cycles can be challenging to diagnose. However, by keeping track of your monthly cycles and monitoring your ovulation, you’ll be better prepared to target your fertile window and increase your chances of pregnancy. Or, address the root causes behind anovulation. 

Hop over to Insta for heaps of tips on all things hormones, TTC and boosting your fertility. Plus, use code FERTILITYHELP15 at checkout for 15% off the Inito Fertility Monitor, exclusively available in the US. 

Want to receive more great articles like this every day? Subscribe to our mailing list

SUBSCRIBE

Tags: ,

Follow Us


WIN

Win 1 of 5 pairs of tickets to The Fertility Show


ENTER NOW