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Menstrual Cycle Fertility: Understanding Your Cycle

What Your Period Is Telling You About Your Fertility

Do you find yourself wondering about your fertility? Asking yourself questions such as, ‘Am I able to conceive?’ and ‘Are my periods ‘normal?’ Let’s take a look at what your menstrual cycle may be telling you. It’s important to remember that every woman is different and what’s important is that you understand what your cycle is saying to you.

Regular Menstrual Cycles

Cycle lengths vary. The average cycle is 28 days, but a 21-40 day cycle is also classed as normal. Women are most fertile mid-cycle, so around days 10 -16.

The menstrual cycle is controlled by the hormones estrogen and progesterone. When the hormones are in sync, the estrogen causes the egg to be released from the ovary and the womb lining thickens.

In the second half of a cycle, the hormone progesterone kicks in and prepares for implantation to occur.

If implantation doesn’t occur then the levels of estrogen and progesterone fall and the lining of the womb sheds, resulting in a period.

Having regular menstrual cycles does not mean that you are ovulating, and it is possible for women to have regular periods and not ovulate. For some, they will ovulate but still experience problems conceiving. This may be due to poor egg health.

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Irregular Menstrual Cycles and What They May Be Telling You

Period regularity can tell you about your hormonal health. When the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are out of sync they can cause the menstrual cycle to become irregular.

There are many reasons why your periods may be irregular and just because they are irregular does not mean that you can’t get pregnant. It can, however, make getting pregnant more difficult as ovulation may not be regular or may not be occurring at all, which is known as anovulation.

What Can Cause Irregular Cycles?

Having irregular periods can be emotionally draining and frustrating, so let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why your periods may be irregular.

Emotional and mental factors can influence hormonal levels and, therefore, have an impact upon menstrual cycles. These stressful circumstances may need to be addressed in order to restore a healthy hormonal balance.

Due to changes in hormonal levels, it’s common for girls entering puberty, and those who are perimenopausal (transitional stage leading to menopause), to experience irregular periods.

Using birth control pills or the hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), which sits in the uterus to prevent pregnancy, can cause changes to your menstrual cycles as they have an impact on your hormones.

There are a range of contraceptive pills which contain small amounts of estrogen and progestin hormones. These hormones stop the natural rhythm of the menstrual cycle by preventing ovulation. They can be used to regulate periods, reduce menstrual cramps, or to prevent pregnancy.

It is common for women to experience spotting or changes to their menstrual cycle after starting some forms of contraception. For example, it is possible after a hormonal IUD is fitted, women will experience light periods or no periods at all. However, the copper IUD may cause periods to become heavier, but this may settle down after a few months as your body adjusts.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS affects over 7 million women worldwide and causes underdeveloped, fluid-filled sacs to form on the ovary, known as follicles. Due to this, the ovary may not be able to release an egg, therefore ovulation does not occur. However, a woman may continue to have her period, some will experience regular cycles whilst others may be irregular.

While there is no treatment for PCOS, the symptoms can be treated. The doctor may suggest implementing a healthier lifestyle, medication, or a small surgical procedure to help regulate the menstrual cycle allowing ovulation to occur.  

The Bottom Line

There are various factors as to why your menstrual cycle, whether regular or irregular, has an impact on your fertility.

Understanding your cycle is key to learning more about your fertility. There are many factors that can influence your cycle throughout your reproductive years, some of these are out of your control, such as your age and medical conditions. Other factors can be within your control, such as reducing stress levels, living a healthy lifestyle, and choosing which birth control method suits you.

For those facing health and medical problems, whether emotional or physical, the good news is that there are medications and therapies available to support hormonal balance.

Every menstruating person is different and experiences and diagnosis will vary greatly. That’s why it’s important to seek your doctor’s opinion on your symptoms and medical history.