While having irregular menstrual cycles can be a sign of infertility, it doesn't mean that every woman with irregular periods is unable to get pregnant. If you have irregular periods, you and your partner may face more obstacles than the average couple, but learning about these challenges can help you find the appropriate treatment.
When Is My Period Considered Irregular?
While there is no “normal” schedule for menstrual cycles, most women's cycles are between 21 and 35 days long. Every woman has at least a couple of irregular periods during her reproductive years, especially during early adolescence and before menopause. If your periods are so unpredictable that they constantly vary from month to month, it's considered irregular.
There are a two main types of irregular menstrual cycles:
- Anovulatory cycles. This is characterized by menstrual bleeding that doesn't follow proper ovulation - no egg is released and therefore conception is not possible. It happened among women who either don't get their period at all, stop having their period for more than three months but aren't pregnant, or who have periods spaced more than 35 days apart.
- Ovulatory cycles. This usually consists of menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding) or periods that regularly last longer than seven days - but it follows ovulation, and therefore pregnancy is possible.
Some other types of irregular periods include:
- Polymenorrhea. When your periods come more frequently than 21 days apart
- Oligomenorrhea. Menstrual bleeding lasting for fewer than two days, or with very scant bleeding.
- Spotting. Minor bleeding occurring between periods - often right after ovulation.
How Does Menstrual Irregularity Affect My Ability to Get Pregnant?
Most couples try to plan conception around a woman's ovulation, as these are the days in which she is fertile. This can be difficult for women with irregular periods for several reasons.
If you're not menstruating regularly, chances are you're not ovulating regularly either. This means your ovaries are releasing eggs less frequently than what is typical. Since ovulation already occurs within a small time frame, this can mean fewer chances to conceive.
Often, a woman can gauge when she will ovulate by counting the number of days since her last menstrual cycle. However, this may not work for those with irregular periods, making it difficult to know when you have the best chance of getting pregnant.
How Can I Overcome My Irregular Periods to Get Pregnant?
Although you may ovulate less frequently, there are ways to determine when you're likely to get pregnant. Since counting the days since your last period may not work, you can look for other signs of ovulation.
Around the time you ovulate, you may notice vaginal discharge that progresses from clear and thin to slightly white and sticky. Other signs of ovulation include tender breasts, a small rise in body temperature, and abdominal cramping. If monitoring these signs doesn't work, try an at-home ovulation test.
Recommendation for Getting Pregnant with Irregular Periods
Ovulation tests detect the amount of luteinizing hormone (LH) your body produces, which increases just before you begin to ovulate. Since your body is constantly producing this hormone, it's important to test regularly so you know when your LH levels have risen.
Read further information and other ways to overcome irregular periods.