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.
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.
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.
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: