What is an anovulatory cycle?
The anovulatory cycle is a menstrual cycle characterized by the absence of ovulation, and therefore, the inability to get pregnant during this time. The amount of cycles per year depends on the menstrual cycle length, which is normally between 21 to 35 days. Within a calendar year, a woman with a regular cycle has approximately 13 menstruations, some of which are anovulatory. This is absolutely normal.
Keep this in mind at the conception stage. An anovulatory cycle may be the reason that a pregnancy did not occur during the first attempt.
With hormonal changes in the body that indicate the approach of menopause, anovulatory cycles will occur more often.
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Ovulatory and anovulatory cycles: what’s the difference?
If your periods come regularly and you feel cyclical changes in your body (ovulatory discomfort in the lower abdomen, breast engorgement closer to your period, or signs of premenstrual syndrome), then you are likely having an ovulatory cycle.
You can check it on your own with the help of ovulation tests and basal body temperature charts.
Anovulatory cycles can be suspected in case of irregular menstruation, if the cycle is significantly shortened (shorter than 24 days) or too long (longer than 35 days).
If your periods are frequently more than 2 weeks late and you cannot detect ovulation via basal body temperature charts and test strips, consult your gynecologist.
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How to detect an anovulatory cycle?
To detect ovulation, a gynecologist usually prescribes a series of ultrasound examinations.
This is done to confirm the ripening of the follicle, the characteristics of the endometrium, ovulation, and the corpus luteum formation.
Usually, 3–4 sessions with an interval of 2–3 days are enough to monitor these processes.
You can also be assigned a blood test for hormones according to the cycle phase.
In the follicular phase (days 3–5), the levels of follicle stimulating (FSH) and luteinizing (LH) hormones, prolactin, thyroid hormones, and estradiol are measured.
In addition, in a regular cycle, the level of progesterone is checked in the middle of the luteal phase (day 20–23).
A full ovulation is confirmed if an ultrasound shows that the corpus luteum has been formed and if the progesterone peak is detected in the luteal phase.
In case of anovulation or incomplete second phase, the gynecologist can prescribe treatment depending on the cause of the disorder.
When the follicle does not ripen and the egg is not released, the cycle is called anovulatory.
You can suspect the lack of ovulation if:
- your periods are irregular and can be late for up to 10 days or more. (In very rare cases, regular cycles can be anovulatory, too.)
- you have short cycles (less than 25 days).
- you have endocrine diseases: polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), increased prolactin, thyroid dysfunction.
Anovulation can also be the result of stress, unbalanced diet, and low or high body weight.