Trying to Conceive with Irregular Periods? Here’s How
If you’ve dealt with irregular periods your entire life, finding a solution may not have been at the top of your to-do list. However, now that you’re trying to conceive, it is definitely an issue that needs attention.
While it’s possible to get pregnant with irregular periods, it’s much more difficult. Abnormal ovulation causes 30% to 40% of infertility cases.
To maximize your chances of getting pregnant you should track your irregular cycles, pinpoint the cause and search for solutions. In this post, we will highlight exactly how to do that and tell you what to expect when you consult your health care provider.
Do You Have Irregular Periods?
The average length of a woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days. However, if your period doesn’t come exactly every 28 days, that doesn’t mean it’s irregular. Your cycle is still considered normal if it’s 7 days longer or shorter.
If your cycle is usually 26 days, but it varies occasionally, your periods probably won’t be considered irregular. It’s normal to have the length of your period vary on occasion. However, if your cycle varies from month to month and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern, your periods are irregular.
How to Calculate Your Menstrual Cycle
To know if your periods are normal, you need to track them. Mark on a calendar the first day you got your period this month. Continue marking the first day of your periods for 3-4 months to find an average and get an accurate idea. An easy way to do this is to download a period tracking app on your smartphone. Two great options include Clue and Period Tracker Lite. If you’re forgetful, some apps allow you to set up notifications to remind you to mark your period. You may also choose to make notes, such as how heavy your period is and how long it lasts.
The first day you get your period is day #1 of your cycle. Count the days up to, but not including, your next period. If your period comes every 27 days, that means your cycle is 27 days. If any of the below signs relate to your cycle, it’s likely you have an irregular period
Signs of Irregular Periods
- Cycle length varies (ex. 28 days month #1, 20 days month #2, 30 days month #3)
- Missed periods (without pregnancy)
- Early periods
- Late periods
- Getting your period every 20 days or less
- The bleeding continues for longer than 8 days
Causes of Irregular Periods
Irregular periods are actually quite common — but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss them as normal. When your periods don’t follow a pattern, your body is usually trying to tell you something, and listening will increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Possible Causes of Irregular Periods:
- Hormone problems— If your hormones are out of balance, your body may not be able to menstruate. However, there are many possible causes of hormonal imbalances, as outlined below.
- Premature ovarian failure (POF)— A woman may be diagnosed with POF if her ovaries stop functioning before age 40. Unlike premature menopause, a woman with POF may still have infrequent periods. Signs you have this condition are similar to those of menopause.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)— If a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels are unbalanced, she may grow ovarian cysts. Women with PCOS often have fewer than nine periods a year. Some don’t have any periods at all.
- Disordered eating— A woman who has anorexia or bulimia may notice she has fewer and lighter periods. In many cases, she may stop getting her period altogether. On the other hand, a woman who has binge eating disorder may also experience hormonal changes and therefore menstrual changes. If you unintentionally lose or gain an excessive amount of weight, you may also have abnormal periods.
- Stress— Anxiety and chronic stress can negatively affect your body in many ways, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your emotional health can affect your period. If you’re very stressed about a situation in your life, your hormones can change and cause you to miss periods. Research has shown that women stop ovulating if they have high levels of a stress hormone. Women with high-stress jobs have the highest risk.
- Medicine— If you have irregular periods and you’re on medication, you should ask your health care provider if it could be the cause. Birth control medications are known to affect your period in different ways: A lighter flow, more frequent or less frequent periods.
How Irregular Periods Can Affect Fertility
A typical woman gets between 11 and 13 periods a year. Each of these periods represents an opportunity to get pregnant. So, when you have fewer periods, you have fewer chances to make a baby.
Even for healthy women, getting pregnant isn’t always easy. Many doctors recommend that women with regular periods try a full year before she sees a fertility doctor. If you don’t ovulate every month, conceiving will likely take even longer.
When trying to conceive, many women use fertility planning to determine their “fertility window,” meaning the days they are most likely to get pregnant. It’s easiest for a woman to plan if she has a regular cycle she can predict each month. If your cycle is abnormal, it can be very difficult to accurately find your fertility window.
How to Conceive with Irregular Periods
The good news is that it’s not impossible to get pregnant if a woman has irregular periods. However, it makes it more difficult and sometimes very unlikely depending on your individual circumstances.
If you have irregular periods, the first step is to make an appointment with your doctor and express your desire to conceive. He or she will give you tests to determine if you’re ovulating and the possible causes. You will likely be tested for other conditions, such as pituitary gland abnormalities and thyroid problems. If you aren’t ovulating, your doctor will diagnose you with anovulation.
To get pregnant, you and your doctor will pinpoint the possible causes and then develop possible solutions.
A solution may be as basic as a lifestyle change. For example, if your ovulation issues are caused by stress, finding ways to relax may help. When you look at it this way, having a bubble bath, reading a good book or even going to a therapist can help you get pregnant. According to one study, 80% of women who received therapy for their stress started ovulating again. Even better? Some women became pregnant within two months.
If your doctor believes your cycle is being affected by excessive weight gain or loss, he or she may refer you to a dietician or personal trainer.
You may be prescribed different medications depending on the cause of your irregular periods. If you’re diagnosed with PCOS, your doctor may prescribe medication to lower your insulin levels. Although there’s no cure for this condition, treatment can bring back regular periods and make pregnancy possible.
If you’re diagnosed with anovulation, it’s likely that your doctor will recommend a fertility drug. Some medications are administered with an injection, while others can be taken orally, such as Clomid and Clomiphene. These drugs will help correct your ovulation and make you ovulate, making it more likely that you will conceive.
Clomiphene is a popular choice for a fertility drug because it works for most women. You’re likely to start ovulating about a week after your last dose. Something to keep in mind is that up to 10% of infertile women who use Clomiphene will have twins, according to WebMD.
If Clomiphene doesn’t work for you, your doctor may increase your dose or switch you to a different fertility drug. Hormone injections can help egg development and are also effective. According to WebMD, these drugs induce ovulation in 90% of women. Between 20% and 60% of these women conceive.
After following your doctor’s advice, you should also consider the many other things you can do to increase your fertility. You may increase your chances of getting pregnant by taking vitamins, following fertility-boosting tips, kicking bad habits and avoiding pesticides. Don’t forget that your partner is the other half of the equation. If you know that irregular periods are decreasing your fertility, increasing your partner’s fertility instead could make conception more likely.
If you’re not responding to medications and fertility-boosting tips aren’t working, you may wish to visit a fertility specialist (if your doctor hasn’t already referred you to one). Some people also choose to try alternative fertility treatments in tangent with traditional medicine.
Are you trying to conceive with irregular periods? If you are, share your experience in the comments below! If you have friends who are trying to make a baby, be sure to share this with them too!
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