How Irregular Menstrual Cycles Indicate Other Issues That Contribute to Infertility
Many women have irregular menstrual cycles and may not give much thought to it until they are trying to become pregnant. What is an irregular menstrual cycle, and could it be the result of stress, low progesterone, PCOS, thyroid issues or something else?
The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, however, a cycle every 24 to 35 days is considered normal. Bleeding may last anywhere from two to seven days, which is also normal. The menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your period (the day you start to bleed) and lasts through the first day of your next period. What constitutes a problem is when your cycles are too short, too long, or become inconsistent. For instance, if you have three cycles with the first lasting 23 days, the second 48 days, and the third 36 days, it would be considered irregular.
It isn’t impossible for women with irregular menstrual cycles to become pregnant, but it is often more challenging. Women who have irregular periods may take oral birth control or fertility drugs in an effort to regulate their cycles and/or conceive. However, in many cases, it is possible to pinpoint underlying issues that may be contributing to irregular menstrual cycles and address them through nutritional, lifestyle changes, acupuncture, stress reduction techniques, Chinese herbs, and other natural or “holistic” treatments. Even if medication does induce regular menstrual cycles it does not address the underlying disharmony that led to the irregularity in the first place. Once the birth control is discontinued the body will likely revert back to its old pattern. As for fertility medication, ovulating is only the first step in having a healthy pregnancy so it is always best to strengthen the bodies ability to be optimally healthy and balanced holistically.
Some of the issues that may cause irregular periods include:
Anovulatory cycles. This means ovulation doesn’t occur during the menstrual cycle, which makes pregnancy impossible. In this case, a woman may still have uterine bleeding occasionally which may be mistaken for a menstrual cycle.
Low progesterone. Progesterone is responsible for sustaining a pregnancy before the placenta takes over several weeks into a healthy pregnancy. Because it plays a crucial role in conception, low levels of progesterone are often the cause of infertility or early pregnancy losses.
Thyroid issues. A thyroid imbalance can affect fertility and occurs when the thyroid is either underactive or overactive. If you feel tired most of the time, have unexplained weight loss or gain, have anxiety and/or depression, or periods that are irregular and lighter or heavier than usual, you could have a thyroid problem.
Stress. Stress is a factor not only in infertility but many medical conditions. Stress may interfere with the part of the brain responsible for controlling hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle. Amenorrhea, or the absence of one or more periods, can be caused by stress.
PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome. Irregular menstrual cycles are the primary symptom of PCOS, a condition that can cause infertility along with weight gain, excessive hair growth on the face and body, male pattern baldness and other symptoms. A female endocrine disorder, PCOS is common and increases the risk of infertility or miscarriage in women who do become pregnant.
Being over or underweight, or excessive exercise are other factors that may contribute to irregular menstrual cycles and infertility. However, these issues are workable in most cases as losing or gaining even a small amount of weight can benefit hormonal regulation in many women.
Infertility is more common than you might believe, but in most cases isn’t permanent! We invite women in the Austin area who experience irregular menstrual cycles to learn more about holistic healthcare and how it may be possible to empower your fertility today.