Period and Fertility: How Are They Related?
Everyone’s body is different. What’s considered a normal period for one person may be unusual for another. Nowadays, it’s super convenient to track your period using free and aesthetically designed apps to check whether your monthly cycles are regular. Does Aunt Flo visit monthly as expected? Or, are your periods irregular and all over the place?
If you intend to get pregnant in the near future, it may especially come in handy to do a little analysis of your cycle and have some answers in place beforehand. This is because your cycle pattern may, in fact, depict your reproductive health.
Let’s look into why and how it could be so.
What’s considered an “irregular period”?
The first day of your menstrual cycle is the first day you notice bleeding, and the last day is the first day of bleeding of your following cycle. The length of the cycle varies from person to person. In fact, the cycle may even vary from month to month for certain people. For example, one month, the cycle may last 28 days, which is considered the average, whereas, the next month it could last 25 days. Does this mean the period is irregular?... Nope, it’s perfectly normal!
A truly irregular period is:
- one that falls outside the normal range of 21 to 35 days. This means that if your cycle is shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days, your period is irregular. (Note: The “normal” range that’s referred to here is the standard parameter reported by the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) and the Mayo Clinic. The range tends to slightly vary even among reputable sources. If you would like to seek more clarity, if your periods fall outside of the range, you may want to make a trip to your doctor’s office!)
- when the number of days between the periods constantly vary although they are within the typical range of 21-35 days. (Note: a one-off occasion is normal. A little personal tip from us is to track your period for 3-5 months to gauge how long a cycle lasts for you!)
Are irregular periods a cause for concern when trying to get pregnant?
A fertile window is a period when ovulation takes place, meaning, a mature egg is released by your body and you’re most likely to get pregnant. According to the Mayo Clinic, for most women, it’s true that ovulation takes place four days before or after the midpoint of their cycle. The 5 days which lead up to ovulation and the day on which ovulation takes place – that is a total of 6 days – is considered your fertile window.
With irregular periods, it could be hard to pinpoint the days that make up your fertile window. Irregular periods may signify irregular ovulation. This means that you may not ovulate on some months or may ovulate at different points from cycle to cycle. Some ovulate a few times each cycle. The uncertainty makes it harder to time intercourse around your fertile window which is the best time to try getting pregnant. There are many reasons which could be the cause behind irregular periods, including underlying conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, even with irregular periods, it’s still possible to get pregnant with the right help and good tracking of your cycle.
Looking beyond the calendar
When analysing whether a fertile window is on the way, there are clues you can look out for, aside from tracking your menstrual cycle through a fertility app. One thing you may notice is the production of more cervical mucus that is stretchy and of egg white-like consistency (check out this article to read more about vaginal discharge!).
Checking your basal body temperature (BBT) first thing in the morning, every day of your cycle can also help you determine the average timing of ovulation. You can firmly assume that ovulation has taken place if your temperature remains elevated by roughly half or a whole degree from the baseline, for three days.
Many looking to get pregnant also rely on ovulation predictor kits (OPK) which are sometimes referred to as ovulation test kits. You can pick one up at your local drugstore as they are available over the counter (OTC). These kits help to detect luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine which spikes when ovulation approaches. Typically, the tests would show a dark or darker line in comparison to the control line if your LH levels are rising. The OPKs detect the LH surge which occurs 12-36 hours before ovulation takes place.
Regular periods and inability to get pregnant?
If you’re reading this article and have regular periods, you may wonder if it’s possible to face difficulties with conception despite getting your periods like clockwork. For the most part, if you have your periods coming in regularly, you are fertile. However, there are cases where women face difficulties getting pregnant despite their steady menstrual cycles. Are they not ‘trying’ at the right time? Should they be tracking ovulation more closely? Are there certain clues they are missing out on?
It can be very overwhelming if you are unable to conceive even with regular cycles. According to Hopkins Medicine, infertility is defined as the “inability to get pregnant after one year of unprotected sex for women under 35 and six months for women 35 and older”.
One reason for infertility regardless of regular cycles could be age. A woman roughly has 2 million eggs at birth, which gradually decreases in number throughout her life. Every month, a woman loses about 1000 immature eggs. Once one reaches 37 years of age, the rate at which she loses eggs may speed up. The eggs may even decline in quality, becoming more prone to division errors during egg production. This can even lead to miscarriages.
Another reason why you may not be getting pregnant could be anovulation which is when a woman does not ovulate even in the presence of a clinically normal menstrual cycle. Some more possible causes include too low progesterone hormone levels – needed to facilitate and maintain pregnancy – which does not meet the threshold, blocked fallopian tubes, reduced quality of male sperm, and even stress.
Time to see a doctor
Having trouble getting pregnant due to irregular periods or even with a regular cycle warrants a trip to an OB-GYN. Discussing your concerns with a professional can help you identify the reasons and plan your next step. There are several therapy options that can be explored. Despite it all, remember that there is always an option that can help!
Disclaimer: Do not use the information provided on this website as a substitute for direct medical advice from a licensed healthcare professional.