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Anovulatory Cycle: Symptoms & Treatment

What Is Anovulation? Anovulatory Cycle Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Explained

Hormones play a crucial role in your menstrual cycle. Ovulation occurs as a result of a controlled fluctuation of your fertility hormones. The precise rise and fall of the hormones determine whether you will get pregnant or not. The phase of your menstrual cycle that is responsible for the release of an egg from your ovary is called the ovulatory phase. If you want to conceive, ovulation must occur in this phase of your menstrual cycle. Many women believe that if they menstruate (bleed) during their cycle at the right time, ovulation must have occurred. But in many instances, you might experience menstrual bleeding without ever ovulating in that cycle. Such a menstrual cycle, where menstrual bleeding occurs but ovulation does not, is called an anovulatory cycle.

Anovulation interrupt women’s menstrual cycles

What is an anovulation cycle?

A menstrual cycle that does not accompany ovulation is called an anovulatory cycle. As you can imagine, if there is no ovulation, you can’t get pregnant during such a cycle. In a normal menstrual cycle, changes in the levels of specific hormones make sure that a mature egg is released around the 14th day of the cycle. If the egg is fertilized by the sperm, you stand a chance to get pregnant. However, as there is no egg released during the anovulatory cycles, there is no chance of fertilization and hence, pregnancy. That said, even if you are having an anovulatory cycle, you will still have normal menstrual bleeding. Hence, it can be difficult to know whether your cycle is indeed anovulatory and such a cycle might get unnoticed. The hormone responsible for the release of the egg from the ovary is called Progesterone. During a normal, ovulatory cycle, there is a spike in the progesterone levels, leading to ovulation. In an anovulatory cycle, there is no spike in progesterone and there is no ovulation. The lack of progesterone causes what is known as anovulatory bleeding. It is easily mistaken as normal period bleeding. But, as there is no release of an egg from the ovary, such a period is not an ‘actual’ period. One more reason for anovulatory bleeding might be due to excessive buildup of the inner lining of your uterus called the endometrium. If the endometrium is too thick, it can’t sustain and sheds itself. This leads to bleeding even though there is no ovulation.

What are the signs of an anovulation cycle?

One of the most common reasons for the inability to conceive in many women can be traced back to anovulatory cycles. If you don’t keep a close track of your ovulation, there is no way of knowing whether your cycle was a normal ovulatory cycle or an anovulatory cycle. It can be difficult to spot an anovulatory cycle if you don’t know what to look for. More often than not, women with periods ranging from 24 to 35 days experience normal ovulatory cycles. Some of the indicators of an anovulatory cycle include the following:

    • If you have irregular cycles that are shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days
    • If your periods are late by more than 10 days
    • Consistent shorter cycles

Merely keeping a track of your menstrual cycle is not sufficient to know whether you are having anovulatory cycles or not. Fertility2Family ovulation tests can help you track the levels of your fertility hormones to give a more precise idea about your ovulation status. The other alternative to this is a visit to the doctor’s office and take a blood test to pinpoint your ovulation. You can keep a track of your anovulatory cycles and gain an insight into your fertility window. Another method of knowing whether you are ovulating or not is an ultrasound test.

The ultrasound machine can detect the growing follicle(s) in your ovaries along with the characteristics and health of the endometrium lining of the uterus. But this procedure will have you pay a visit to your healthcare provider’s office multiple times during your cycle. Your doctor will check for the level of Follicle-stimulating hormone luteinizing hormone (LH), and estrogen during the follicular phase of your cycle.

During this phase, the ovarian follicles are growing and maturing before they can release an egg. The level of progesterone is usually checked in the middle of the luteal phase which is responsible for preparing your uterus for the implantation of the embryo. Ovulation is confirmed if the doctor can visualize corpus luteum, a structure in the ovary responsible for progesterone secretion and a corresponding spike in the progesterone level in your blood. If one or both of these factors are not detected, the cycle is deemed anovulatory.

Ovulating Regularly With PCOS
Image courtesy of The Bright Girl Guide by Demi Spaccavento.

What are some of the causes of the anovulatory cycle?

Anovulatory cycles are quite common in younger girls who have recently started menstruating and older women nearing their menopause. That said, an anovulatory cycle in these age groups is considered quite normal and nothing to worry about. If you don’t fall into these age groups, then anovulatory cycles can be problematic. Apart from the age factor, There have been many studies that identify other reasons for developing an anovulatory cycle. Here are some of the factors that can lead to an anovulatory cycle:

    • If you are suffering from Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
    • If you are using hormonal contraceptives
    • If you are on certain medications
    • If you are engaged in extreme exercise routines
    • If you happen to have an unhealthy lifestyle
    • If you are underweight
    • If you are nearing or achieved menopause
    • If you have severe mental stress

A fertility tracker that can track your hormonal levels and predict ovulation, can be of great help if you are trying to conceive. Fertility2Family has many such products that can help you track ovulation and allow you to tell if you have had an anovulation cycle. That said, if you suspect that you have reproductive health problems, make sure that you visit your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

What are some treatments of anovulatory cycles?

Treatment is warranted only if you have repeated anovulatory cycles. In addition to treatments, some natural ways can help you with your anovulatory cycles. Here are some things that are crucial for sound reproductive health:

    • Proper and a well-balanced nutrition
    • A healthy lifestyle
    • Physical activity of any kind
    • Proper Management of mental stress levels

Being overweight can also be a factor contributing to your anovulatory cycles. Some other factors that we mentioned such as PCOS or menopause are beyond your control, but nutrition, low-stress levels, and physical exercise sure are.

Make sure that you bring about a positive change in your lifestyle by having a proper nutritive diet, exercising regularly, and managing your stress levels. A few months of this routine will help your body to heal itself and then you can start testing ovulation using fertility and ovulation kits to detect if your ovulating or having an anovulatory cycle. If these changes are not bringing your cycle back on track, it is time to talk with your doctor. Your gynecologist may prescribe you some medications that assist your follicles to mature, increase the levels of estrogen in your body, and stimulate the follicles to release that precious egg on time.

What does an anovulatory cycle mean if you are trying to conceive?

If you are trying to conceive, an anovulatory cycle will make it impossible to do so. That said, the good news is that anovulatory cycles are perfectly and easily treatable. Anovulatory cycles can be reversed in most women and they can conceive without a problem. It is perfectly normal to feel stressed about your anovulatory cycles. Let’s try to answer some questions related to such cycles now.

What is the length of a typical anovulatory cycle?

Normal menstrual cycles last around 21-35 days. If you are having shorter or longer cycles than this typical period, you might have an anovulatory cycle. If your period is late by more than 10 days, it might also indicate an anovulatory cycle.

Can you have a period after an anovulatory cycle?

It is possible to have periods even if your cycle is an anovulatory one. Excessive thickening of the endometrium or a low level of progesterone can cause menstruation in an anovulatory cycle. In such a case, you might mistake it as a normal period and assume that you have ovulated, but it is not the case. The best way to keep a track of your ovulation and hence detect an anovulatory cycle is to take an ovulation test. You can keep a track of your hormone levels using Family2Fertility ovulation predictor kits. Testing your hormone levels is the only way you can be sure about the status of your menstrual cycles.

When should I expect to ovulate after an anovulatory cycle?

It is possible to ovulate after one or more anovulatory cycles. The time for the resumption of normal ovulation, however, varies for every woman. If you were having back to back anovulatory cycles, your ovulation can return if you work on the factor like nutrition, stress management, etc. If the anovulation is a result of an unhealthy lifestyle, making positive changes can bring about positive results soon. Monitoring what you eat, including a robust excursive routine, managing your stress levels can be a great boost for normal ovulation right after a series of anovulatory cycles. Hormonal birth control pills can also result in anovulatory cycles. You can expect the ovulatory cycles to return after about one month to three months after stopping the pills. If your ovulatory cycles don’t return with three months of stopping the birth control pills, visit a doctor.

Certain medications including Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) an also cause anovulatory cycles. One small study shows that NSAIDs delayed ovulation in up to 75% of their subjects. NSAIDs are commonly used as pain relief. If you are taking medications such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen, stopping them will often return your ovulatory cycles, if not, consult your physician. Chronic medical conditions such as PCOS need special treatments. Consult with your doctor if you happen to suffer from such conditions. Some therapies can help you ovulate that your doctor can prescribe.

When should I see a doctor?

If you are trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for over a year (over 6 months if you are over 35 years of age), you should seek a medical opinion. If the doctor suspects that you have anovulatory cycles, they may prescribe you medications along with some positive lifestyle changes. If you have certain medical conditions that are responsible for your anovulatory cycles, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. Also, make sure that you are discussing with your doctor the medications that you might be using such as pain relief. Lastly, you should look out for the following signs that might indicate anovulatory cycles:

    • Menstrual cycles longer than 35 days or shorter than 21 days
    • If you haven’t had your period for more than 90 consecutive days
    • Bleeding between cycles
    • Pain in your pelvic area during menstrual bleeding or the entire cycle